Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DRESSING WORDS FOR THE CLOSE READ GALA by (me!) sandra, the former masters candidate

THINK ORIGINAL POST WAS IN 2007: memory trigger: robert frost. the road not taken.

i'm reminded of this because kathy cordova recently asked me for a humorous excerpt from my poem, anything but love, in which i springboard off robert frost's masterpiece work.

and she has kindly featured me in their new blog: http://www.tv30inaword.blogspot.com/

but having been reminded of this poem, i started digging write away for the paper i wrote when i was at san jose state. -anyone who knows me knows my dominant form of communication is writing over talking, and my dominant form of writing is creative non-fiction over -well, over anything else.

but while i was (very briefly) at san jose state, i learned from my awesome and passionate professor, krishnaswamy, about new criticism. close readings. and was required to write a paper on robert frost's poem, the road not taken, applying this scholarly criticism.

very well.

i compare it to getting dressed up for a formal affair of some sort. -my dominant form of dress is comfortable~casual, but i don't wear my jeans and sweaters to weddings.

and while it does not come naturally to me.. to write in this way; or to criticize for that matter,

i did it. or more accurately, "i did it!" the professor said mine was an A paper and she was going to share it with the class as an example of great close readings.

-it has cut in front of the hummer story demanding to be shared first:

Eng 101/Literary Criticism/Fall 2007
Dr. R. Krishnaswamy

New Criticism / The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
by Sandra Harrison-Kay

If the signature of a great work is its ability to convey a complex universal human condition in an artistic and engaging way, and the signature of a great author, the ability to communicate through a demonstration of creatively employed, deliberately chosen and uniquely organized words, not merely a common retelling, then The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost falls easily in the classification of a masterpiece which promises to keep countless generations both entertained and engaged in debates between free will and determinism.

A harmonious melody rings from the onset, thanks to a selection and pacing of words that bring us immediately to a place of action:: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. Prelude is unnecessary and consciously eliminated. ( once upon a time, I went walking,…) Instead, with a precise and economic use of only seven words we hear melody , experience intrigue, understand setting, see place and season. The use of Two as the starting place; brilliant and the selection of diverged perfect, in that using any other synonym would rob the poem of it’s beauty and rhythm and the use of the tense, ed, identifies from the beginning, we are being told a story from the past. Everything becoming story as fast as it takes place; almost simultaneously when it comes to humans. Use of present tense -often cited as more engaging - would be entirely incongruent with The Road Not Taken’s essence as a poetic story created from and destined for dramatic retellings: I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence;

The rhythmic pattern appears to originate from the onset, with conscious effort made to remain true to this organic melody but always without compromising the integrity of the poem’s deeper meaning: Beautiful words that serve the story and rhyme, not rhyming words forced inside a story. The A pattern relatively simple, blended with a more creative and artistic combination in the B rhyming patterns so that together they create a layered harmony but somewhat unpredictable in that it is not (A B A B A B) but a more adventurous combination (A, B, A, A, B)

A: would/stood/could * fair/wear/there * lay/day!/way, * sigh/I--/by,

B: travel both/undergrowth * better claim/about the same * had trodden black,/ ever come back * ages hence:/the difference.

Page 2 of 2/New Crit/Road Not Taken/S. Harrison-Kay

A series of complex human debatable truths is captured within the opening lines of the traveler in this poetic story. Intuitive response being immediate, the traveler nonetheless, treats the two roads as if he is faced with a choice (free will). “And sorry I could not travel both” “Long I stood” and “And looked down one as far as I could” offer excellent examples of how intuitive response is unperceived, ignored or postponed in favor of imagined contemplation and decision making.

But an argument in favor of determinism rises within stanzas and story which on the surface showcase free will. As in the very next stanza set, we see there was really no decision to be made at all. Only justification, rationalization, story, for instinctual response: “..took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim.” The words selection here, the better claim, unlocking this debatable truth, that the traveler knew before he knew and then created story around it. This, then, and so early in the poem, exceeds the criteria for masterpiece works: a two-layered poem revealing a complicated human experience in action not words.

This brilliance repeating itself in lines 13 through 15: Oh, I kept the first for another day!/Yet knowing how way leads to way,/I doubted if I should ever come back. In this relationship between doubting and knowing, the two layers are experienced again as we engage in a story being created around intuitive knowledge but dressed in the more familiar and comfortable attire we identify as free will; soothing the soul with the pretty idea of possibility and choice.

Quite a fascinating thing, unique to humans, is this conscious awareness of our instincts. And given our gifts for creativity and communication, amazing stories are born in the seconds, hours, days, years that exist between impulse and action. Frost captures, beginning to end, the nature of humans as storytellers, and then places within his poetic story all the crucial elements of dilemma, tension, action, lesson and result with hints of adventure poised to inspire. He then closes with a self-congratulatory and powerful rhythm which serves both as testimony and permission for fellow humans to recognize and follow their daring instincts and then take credit or blame for the outcome.


At 6:55 AM, Blogger Kathy Cordova said...

I finally got around to reading this. Wonderful! A+!

And thanks for mentioning the blog!


At 5:27 AM, Blogger SHE said...

miracle mom: thank you! and love your new blog

"to community!" love, ~s.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger SHE said...

This post has been "re-released". It was originally posted 02/11/09. But until I get to sit down with the e-blogger people at google... Re-releases appear as if they've just been posted... Frustrating

Options now: publish. Revert to draft. Edit. Publish.

Options needed: publish. Unpublish/hold. Edit. Publish/original date. Publish/today's date.


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