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Exploring “Recognition” in MARBL

Artists do not create without inspiration and Carol Ann Duffy is no different.

Woman at mirror, circa 1930s: Seattle Municipal Archives
Woman at mirror, circa 1930s: Seattle Municipal Archives

Taped down to the first page that contains a draft of her poem Recognition, is an aged and browned newspaper clipping. Not knowing the context of the clipping, I perceived it to be from maybe an advice column of sorts. The clip says “From Mrs. Rosemary,” and then a woman talks about how she has come to a place in her life where she doesn’t recognize the untidy woman in the mirror anymore and felt obligated to apologize to her reflection because she could’ve been so much more. With that inspiration – next to doodles of three-dimensional cubes and the clipping – Duffy jotted the ending to the poem, “sorry sorry sorry.”

Duffy was clearly struck by what she had read. Right away she takes a blurb that is only a couple of short sentences long – that she might have stumbled upon in her morning paper – and gives life to it. Duffy only took three rewrites to come up with a working draft that consists of eight stanzas like the published version, with only minor edits to word choices.

The final working draft that appears in the manuscripts that I looked at was written in silvery ink compared to the thick black ink she uses everywhere else. Additionally, the first versions of the poem use three stanzas with six lengthy lines before she dices them apart for her more finalized version that is eight stanzas, each of them with four lines.

Recognition fits nicely into the overarching theme of Selling Manhattan, which is Duffy’s ability to speak from the point of view of another person regardless of how foreign or even deranged that perspective may be. The fact that Duffy was inspired by a newspaper clipping shows me that Selling Manhattan was built with things that caused Duffy to stop and consider the possibility of a foreign existence, whether that existence be foreign physical, emotional, or mental.

 

 

The Devil’s Wife

I found The Devil’s Wife to have the most interesting and varying structure out

Prison Cell by Aapo Haapanen
Prison Cell by Aapo Haapanen

of all the poems in The World’s Wife. The poem is split into five different sections and it follows a plot of someone falls for the Devil and eventually spirals down the wrong path. She seemingly commits a heinous crime, as she is sentenced to life in prison. The first portion, Dirt, is pretty straight forward detailing the events that led to the woman succumbing to the Devil. Although in this section the Devil is identified as a man in her office, that fact becomes clouded with the burial of a doll. At that point, the woman becomes a shell of herself,  “I felt like this: Tongue of stone. Two black slates / for eyes. Thumped wound of a mouth. Nobody’s Mam” (17-18).

The Medusa section ruins the straightforwardness of the piece when the speaker says, “I flew in my chains over the wood where we’d buried the / the doll” (19). If the woman was in chains it insinuates that she was already shackled and possibly in prison before she committed the crime. Later she tells us that the Devil is gone which leads me to believe that the actual doll she buried was the body of the man she fell for. Bible utilizes double-negatives to confuse the reader, but it is fitting because it appears to represent the speaker’s experience of an interrogation room where she is disoriented and only wants someone to talk to that can help her sort out what happened because she doesn’t remember it herself.

The final two sections wrap up the poem well while also leaving it somewhat open-ended. In Night, the reader is shown the scene of the speaker in her cell alone, contemplating her remaining options. She decides to come forward and give a confession despite having no memory of when it actually happened. The final two lines of the poem encompass the open-ended nature of The Devil’ Wife. “But what did I do to us all, to myself / When I was the Devil’s wife?” I believe that that being the Devil’s wife does not mean that the man in the speaker’s office was the Devil, but her relationship with him is comparable to being possessed. Her depression or possession leads her to kill the man and bury him, but in her state she does not recognize the action as a crime and associates the man’s lifeless body as a doll.

 

The Comedy of The World’s Wife

When we were first introduced to Carol Ann Duffy prior to reading her in class, we were told about the scenario of her switching publishers because she believed The World’s Wife was more like pop culture poetry than her previous works. After reading the first half of the book of poetry, I agree. Many of her pieces in The World’s Wife utilize allusions to common stories, fairy tales, fables, or whatever else you may call them. The way Duffy uses these allusions reminds me of the way traditional poets from the past use mythological references to add layers to their poems. Duffy’s use of these characters push her poetry into the mainstream because they become more relatable to people who are not accustomed to reading poetry or dealing with literature. In fact, a friend of mind also attended the reading as a part of another class assignment. He was supposed to profile Duffy and instead left the venue telling me that he doesn’t usually enjoy poetry but he wanted to read more of Duffy’s work.

 

I believe that many people find poetry hard to relate to or confusing because it often deals with difficult themes like those found in Selling Manhattan. However, those themes are mostly absent from The World’s Wife. Replacing poems that focus on death and loneliness are humorous poems. The poem that I think encapsulates Duffy’s goal is “Mrs. Darwin.” Consisting of only five lines, “Mrs. Darwin” reads like a short joke with a punch line at the end, and it works. “Mrs. Darwin” elicited the most laughs out of the crowd at the reading and it was by far the shortest. Duffy’s The World’s Wife is unlike any other poetry I have ever read and I think that was her goal. She wanted to reach out to the readers who are not comfortable with poetry and invite them in with poems that were fun and easy reads.

asy reads.

Selling Manhattan – The Second Half

The first half of Carol Ann Duffy’s poems in Selling Manhattan heavily focused on themes consisting of death, illness, and mental instability. However, in the latter half of this book of poetry the themes do not have clear common themes as before. The string of poems from the pages of 47 to 52 tell a story of separation from a love by an ocean and that idea picks up again with the final three poems.

Photo by Dschwen Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Dschwen Wikimedia Commons

The speaker is in an unfamiliar land and cannot be comforted by the haven of loving arms. But in between those poems that discuss the struggle of a long distance relationship in a foreign land, there are cryptic poems like Scraps, Stealing, Three Paintings, and Big Sue and Now Voyager. Those works were difficult for me to give meaning to and I hope others can illuminate the ideas behind them in class.

The one poem that stood out to me in this reading was Mouth, With Soap. It made me think of an uptight woman who might chastise her children for aligning themselves with pop culture. For example, there are people who denounce J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series because they believe it supports witchcraft and its practice, but it has positive themes. The woman believes she is protecting herself against evil influences in the world but in reality she is only censoring herself and limiting her freedoms. The “constant drizzle in her heart” (44) could be the personality and uniqueness within herself that is dripping away into censorship and rotting away inside her. Eventually, her commitment to a perceived purity will leave her empty.

Model Village

libraryI did some external research on Carol Ann Duffy and saw her described as a ventriloquist and after reading the first half of Selling Manhattan I found three poems that stuck out as prime examples of Duffy’s unique style as a ventriloquist. The poems Dies Natalis, Model Village, and Psychopath have characters that range from a cat to a psychopathic rapist. However, her jumping around from character to character is not just a gimmick. Model Village uses the transitions and the order of the transitions to send a message. With lines like “Frogs say Croak,” juxtaposed with dark topics such as sexual predators and murder, this piece takes a classic story children’s book detailing noises a variety of animals make, and spins it.

“What does Miss Maiden say?” is the first questions the reader is presented with and she is shown to have issues with her mother to the point where she poisons her. The other human characters all have similarly deep troubling issues including a farmer, a priest, and a librarian. Each person is trapped in their heads, swimming with their own problems. The librarian refuses to reveal her own insecurities because she likely does not even know what they are. The librarian has buried herself in novels and books in her temple of tomes in order to keep herself sane. The line “I peddle fiction,” is a telling quote because it shows that make-believe stories help the librarian stay detattched from her own reality and the thoughts that run through her own mind. She would rather explore the books of her library because they are the deranged thoughts of others and make her feel better about herself as they are what she calls, “stranger.”

The Rereading Effect

reading
Photo by Jayel Aheram of Flickr

With the conclusion of our reading of Mrs. Dalloway, I have identified the one passage and quote that I feel best encapsulates the overall theme of Virgina Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Strangely enough, I do not recall going over the particular passage I have in mind during my first encounter with Mrs. Dalloway in another Emory English class. I believe that extended focus of our project on places and relationships caused Clarissa’s thoughts on understanding people to stand out to me more than before, “Clarissa had a theory in those days…It was to explain the feeling of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known…So that to know her, or any one, on must seek out the people who completed them; even the places” (117 ).

It stuns me that my attention was not drawn to this passage in my previous read through and I think it mostly has to do with the fact that I struggled, as many do, to comprehend the peculiar writing style that Woolf employs. Overwhelmed by her tendency to write out her characters’ thoughts in a stream of consciousness format, I glossed over the internal reflections of some characters in order to simplify the many different interactions and crossing of plot points in my mind. Obviously, that style of reading was a critical error in this context.

This rereading experience has proved to me yet again that books can be rediscovered over and over again, much like watching a movie over again allows a viewer to focus on extraneous details that could otherwise be ignored. I credit the mapping assignment with restructuring my reading focus and I look forward to seeing how other assignments this semester might further affect the way I approach a writing from now on.

The Relatability of Mrs. Dalloway

Regent's Park Lake - From Flickr: By irishtravel
Regent’s Park Lake – From Flickr: By irishtravel

This is my second reading of Mrs. Dalloway, and in my first encounter with Virgina Woolf’s novel my professor made a point to present a mapping that was completed in 2011. Therefore, I am well aware of the long and confusing physical journey that each character takes around London and where they intersect after witnessing the same events or hearing the bells ring. Perceiving life from within the minds of each character is a significant piece of Woolf’s narrative form. For example, Septimus and Clarissa both are present for the backfiring of the car but they react in very different ways, revealing a great deal about their personalities. I found it interesting that Peter and Clarissa both have long streams of consciousness detailing exactly how they felt about each other and shows how a long period of time apart alters their feelings.

 

Naturally the pair imagines how life would have been different with each other as spouses with Clarissa first thinking to herself, “…If I had married him, this gaiety would have been mine all day!” (63). Just a page later those thoughts are nearly spun into motion before Peter’s inquiry on the state of Clarissa’s marriage is interrupted by Elizabeth’s entrance and introduction. Despite Clarissa’s apparent change of heart and regret of not marrying Peter, she is still easily agitated by Peter’s habit of playing with his knife just as he is bothered by her introduction of her daughter simply because she said “Here is my Elizabeth” (35). After thinking through these contradictions, it can be said that Woolf’s characters could be labeled as complicated. However, the complexity of the internal arguments Peter and Clarissa conduct with themselves is surprisingly relatable. Anyone who has had to make a major decision about anything from relationships, to school selections, to job offers can understand the tedious process that is decision making. Additionally, unless you’ve never made a mistake in your life it is easy to comprehend the pangs of regret the pair feels. I am pleased to say that after focusing more on the characters during this reading I found the story more enjoyable than I did the first time when it was tough just to follow the logistics of the novel.

Community Bucket’s Founder: Jesse Grossman

Jesse Grossman sits comfortably in the back of Starbucks after combating Atlanta traffic to get to Emory Village. He normally rides his bike to Emory from his home in Virginia-Highland, but it will be dark soon and Grossman does not want to run the risk of biking home in the dark. “There’s no time for fun,” he says sarcastically, punctuating his jest with a smile.

Grossman’s sarcastic statement encompasses the attitude of the volunteer group that he founded. The group, called Community Bucket, is a collection of young professionals who seek to make a positive impact on Atlanta through service while simultaneously connecting with new people. Following the service project of the day, the group moseys over to a bar or tavern to socialize and celebrate its hard work.

In 2013, Community Bucket hosted 28 volunteer events ranging from cleaning up the Atlanta BeltLine, to sorting books to be sent to African children. These evjesseents had a combined attendance of 500 different individuals. These specifics are good. However, that is only the beginning. In 2014, Community Bucket is introducing its corporate program.

For a fee, Community Bucket will schedule and plan events for corporations to participate in. The past year, Grossman was able to turn a profit out of Community Bucket from the fees that individuals paid to work with Community Bucket. Grossman supports himself from the profit he makes through his company and also with freelance marketing jobs.

Grossman and his roommate from his senior year at Emory, Mike Guardalabene, had discussed starting a non-profit together. In the summer of 2012, the plan was set into action. Gathering friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends, Community Bucket held its first large service project and 75 volunteers attended. Realizing the potential of Community Bucket, as well as losing his interest marketing for large-scale businesses, Grossman quit his job in marketing in January 2013. “Building a brand from nothing and making it into something of value, as well as marketing for something I’m passionate about, I realize how much I enjoy it now,” says Grossman. He has tremendous enthusiasm for his brand, but it may not always be evident to outside observers.

Grossman speaks with a soft and calm tone, but at the same time he is never forced to raise his voice over the coffee beans grinding behind the Starbucks counter. The curly-headed Marietta-raised man has an intriguing balance of passion for his brand but that excitement hides behind a shy, but suave personality.

Jacey Lucus, a fellow millennial and official team manager for Community Bucket, shares the 25-year-old Grossman’s affinity for sarcasm, “His sarcasm is hilarious. He’s able to poke that in, but he knows when to be professional,” says Lucus. Professional and passionate are certainly two adjectives to describe Grossman.

“He is very welcoming, but very relaxed and lets people come to him,” says Lucus. Grossman goes against his natural shyness to greet volunteers at events, according to Guardalabene. “Jesse can speak to a crowd and command a presence, but he can also gravitate quickly back to being quiet and reserved,” said Guardalabene.

Guardalabene said that it actually took some time for him to get to know Grossman because of their shared shyness. Following their graduation in 2010 from Emory, Grossman and Guardalabene traveled to South America together for five weeks, “That’s where I got to know him best,” said Guardalabene. Grossman is an explorer of sorts, always looking for a new favorite restaurant around Atlanta, naming Brick Store Pub, Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House, and Fellini’s as his top three destinations. On his weekends, Grossman lives an active lifestyle. “I generally try to get outside somehow,” says Grossman, sporting a Columbia athletic shirt and blue jeans.

Leaning back with his elbow resting on a neighboring chair, Grossman gives off relaxed vibes, but maybe it’s the calm ones you have to worry about most. “His purpose in life, the reason he’s on this earth, is to pull practical jokes on people,” said Guardalabene. His calm, cool, and collected demeanor likely helped him to keep a straight face during any prank Grossman pulled on Guardalabene.

That same attitude is beneficial for crisis management for when things go wrong around Community Bucket. A location for a service project recently fell through but Grossman handled it, according to Lucus. “He was able to make calls, work it out, maybe freak out for a bit. But he stepped up and made it happen. I really only have great things to say about him,” said Lucus.

A unique mix of prankster, explorer, and entrepreneur, Grossman is a balanced person who is not afraid to chase down his passion. Luckily for Atlanta, Grossman’s passion is social work, and Community Bucket is his outlet. Grossman’s former roommate gave a description of Grossman that might mirror Community Bucket’s personality. “Jesse’s a mix of serious and laid-back,” said Guardalabene. Oddly enough, Grossman described how he hoped people approach an event with Community Bucket with a similar phrase that Guardalabene used described to Grossman. “Let’s work hard but try not to take it too seriously.”