Bibliographic sources for the information presented in the above image can be viewed here. This infographic is a creative way to provide people with facts rather than fictions.
Hub (of activity)
Universal (method for all writing types)
Useful (for supercharging writing)
Participate (with your peers in a socio-work setting)
Amiable (environment to write and meet people)
Negotiable (time, place, and duration)
Diversity (in/out of every session)
Words (on screen/paper, among friends)
Regular (sessions help people keep in touch and promote good writing practise)
Involved (in your writing community)
Tap-tap (of other keyboards encourages your writing)
Energised (after 90+mins of chatting and writing).
In this TED Talk, Scott Griffin, founder of the Griffin Poetry Prize, discusses the importance of poetry, drawing on his own personal development and the role of arts in society. Throughout, his talk is flavoured with recitations of some of his favourite poems delivered in the manner of a true appreciator of poetry and language. At the beginning Griffin says, “poetry is able to deliver, with just a few lines, the full range of human experience.” This statement brings many lines of poetry to my mind. The most potent are from a poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes called “Lápiz Azul“:
“A Swoop of the heart
and there it is – a field
so blue I live through
a dense dream of wet
and white. This world
could be a dream, this
dream, a universe“ (From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger. Pg 52. 1981).
For all my research on poetry, language, form, and style, I have to say that there are some poems that do not invite a scholarly investigation. This is not because they don’t deserve such attention, but because they encapsulate, in just a few simple words, more thought, sense and emotion than a peer-reviewed article, book chapter, or monograph could possibly express. The power of these lines, for me, is akin to a few of William Wordsworth’s in “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey“:
“but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.”
I read Wordsworth in secondary school (high school) and fell into such deep, obsessive love with his words that my English teacher invited me to teach the revision classes on his work. These lines stood out in particular. They, like those by Cervantes, seem to encapsulate what Griffin describes as “the full range of human experience.” But poetry can go even further; Cervantes seems to interrogate the very nature of our existence, and Wordsworth’s lines express the incredible impact that human beings have had on this earth.
Moreover, these quotes demonstrate the timelessness to poetry. Cervantes published “Lápiz Azul” in her second collection in 1981, while Wordsworth penned “Tintern Abbey” in 1798 – a gap of 183 years. Throughout our human history we have used language to situate ourselves, explain our existence, express our emotions, and commit to memory significant events (personal and political).
Every poem, recent or past, is current due to poetry’s capacity for human expression and understanding. This post is not textual analysis or close reading of poetry. It is simply an appreciation of an art, in my opinion, the most human of the arts, a form that is innately connected to our desire for language and communication.
I would argue that Wordsworth and Cervantes’ lines, together, express that desire (whether or not they were originally intended to do so). Poetry is “the still sad music of humanity“, beautiful and gentle, able to “chasten and subdue” as we attempt to navigate our own paths in a world that seems as fragile, surreal and endless as a “dream, a universe.” I think everyone has wondered at some point, “How did I get here?” Poetry may not provide the answer, but it asks the question in ways that make one believe the reason must be significant.
What are your favourite lines of poetry? Please tell me in the comments!
“We Must Not Always Talk in the Market-Place of What Happens to Us in the Forest”: Victim Blaming is Our Scarlet Letter
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
Are we all born with scarlet letters, unseen until someone or something makes them visible? Like unlucky lottery scratch cards, a letter rubbed raw, eczematous, infectious: one for every woman who dares to speak out against rape and sexual assault. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional character, Hester Prynne donned a red letter “A” for adultery, a signal of her deviant sexuality, a public warning, a badge of shame. Today, society has become that puritanical scarlet letter for every woman, every victim, everyone who tries to take back the power and make a try for justice.
Victim blaming is the scarlet letter used by rape culture to marginalise women. It is as much an elaborate cross-stitch of (un)reasoned words as a flaming mark left by a phallocentric branding iron. In an article examining the problematic attitudes toward rape in Ireland, Amnesty International state that, in relation to low conviction rates for sex crimes, “It is clear. . . .that public attitudes to victims of rape are a significant part of the problem, and something the UN too said needed to be addressed. Rape, as with other forms of ‘gender-based violence’ against women, is directed at a woman because she is a woman. The underlying cause, according to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, is the historical and ongoing discrimination against women by men. Also, these attitudes necessarily dictate how victims are treated subsequently.” As Hawthorne says of Hester’s scarlet letter, “It [the scarlet letter] had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” Isolation, social exile, mockery, threats, even violence are some of what can face rape and sexual assault survivors who speak out against their attackers.
An accusation is worth a thousand brandings
Hester says to her daughter, “Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl! We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.” What Hester was talking about is sexuality. Not much has changed for women since Hawthorne’s 19th century exploration of 17th century womanhood in Puritan America. We are not supposed to talk about rape, sexual assault, sexuality, or gender-based violence. An accusation is worth a thousand brandings leaving the victim mottled and worn by the collective prejudice of a society that is stunted by patriarchy, shackled to a medieval chauvinism, and hog-tied to ignorance.
Education, Justice, Support
There have been a surge of posts, articles and commentary about rape culture and victim blaming since the Steubenville rape case became global news. Many bloggers have compiled lists of why victim blaming happens, how it happens, and how to put a stop to it. Quite simply, we need to educate, improve our justice systems, and provide more support for victims of rape and sexual assault. As long as statistics like the ones below exist, we have an impossible task ahead of us. These figures are also the glaring reasons why education, justice and support are essential, yet lacking.
— Victoria McCollum (@Vic_McC) March 23, 2013
“Violence against women is not a private matter – it is everyone’s business. We too must challenge negative attitudes to women, and resist images and information channels that reinforce discriminatory attitudes and perpetuate violence against women” - Amnesty International.
— Donna M. Alexander (@americasstudies) March 19, 2013
Steubenville is now synonymous with hell. It is no longer just a geographical location, but an event, a moment in time when humanity failed to be humane. It represents one of the most callous tendencies of human beings: the inclination to blame victims of sex crimes, to valorise rapists, to sympathise with destroyers of human souls. Because that is what sex crimes do; aside from the bodily harm that is caused, the soul is forever scarred, if not completely shattered. This is our man-made rape culture.
The woman who we all know as Jane Doe is now suffering manifold because of the senseless backlash she has received for taking the very brave step of coming forward and seeking justice against her rapists. Not only does she face the long and torturous journey of recovering from the crime, but she must now face the mob of voices that condemned and blamed her for seeking the justice that she deserves.
This is the latest in an overwhelming trend of victim blaming that has spread like wildfire across this planet. How many times have I heard the following? She shouldn’t have dressed like that; I suppose that’s what happens when you drink too much; some girls are just naïve; she’s a bit of a flirt; she sleeps around a lot; she must have sent out the wrong signals; she was asking for it. How much more will I have to hear?
I have experienced victim blaming. The pain of being belittled for what was done to me against my will felt like my spine splintered, driving bone shards into my vital organs, vertebrae up my throat; my liver punctured, leaking bile throughout my centre; my blood clotting and my veins hardening against a constant and vicious onslaught against my character. What little of my soul that was left unharmed by my attacker was eviscerated by my blamers
All around the world victims of sex crimes are trying to survive and rebuild themselves amid this culture of blaming and shaming. Every time yet another person or group condemns the victim and valorises the rapist it is a reminder and a reinforcement of the unreserved cruelty that goes hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with sex crime. The omnipresent site of victims’ damnation goes by the name of Steubenhell; the fire that burns there is blame; the people who stoke the fire should know better; and the people warming their hands over it are the perpetrators of rape and sexual assault.
— renee(@reneejulene) March 19, 2013
A series of Poetry Translation workshops are being held by the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, University College Cork over the coming weeks, hosted by writer in residence, Matthew Sweeney. I attended the first of these workshops on the 08th March 2013. Several texts by Spanish, German and French poets were provided, the aim being that participants would translate a text in the language they are least familiar with. The workshop presents translation as a skill that is accessible to those who are not specialists in certain languages.
Sweeney opened with a brief introduction to the workshop, the poems and poets selected. We watched video clips of the poets reading in their native languages. Despite not being able to follow the languages, all participants agreed that witnessing the sounds, intonations and performances of the poets gave an interesting context and to their work.
Then, armed with dictionaries and blank paper, we were encouraged to approach our chosen poems in any way we felt comfortable with. Among the participants were fluent speakers of the three languages represented to help with any tricky linguistic issues that the dictionaries didn’t cover. This was a very engaging and informal session; partipants were free to ask questions, talk about the poems and give/receive advice. It reminded me in some ways of the Shut Up and Write method – this workshop was more Translate and Collaborate though!
When it came to choosing a poem I was in a bit of a fix as I am familiar with all three languages. I decided that the best strategy was to choose the language that felt the least connection to and began translating a sonnet-style poem by a French poet, Valérie Rouzeau. My process was as follows:
- I first read through the poem, taking note of the few words and phrases I understood, as well as punctuation and structure.
- I then directly translated the poem line by line with the help of a dictionary.
- Following this, I had a rough, legible text. I began to pick over awkward phrasing and poor grammar, attempting to work the translation into something that makes sense.
I encountered some sections that were difficult to translate due to socio-cultural differences, and simply because some words/phrases do not translate into other languages. For example, one line of the poem refers to the CE1 exams in France: tests taken by 7-8 year olds. Assuming that non-French readers would not know about this, I chose to translate “CI1″ as “exams” and possibly provide a footnote explaining the French exam system. I am almost certain that such issues are encountered by fluent as well as non-fluent translators and it would be interesting to discuss this further during the next workshop. This issue encourages my opinion that activities like translation are most rewarding when collaborative.
Thus, after the first of three poetry translation workshops I have drawn a number of brief observations:
- Translations of texts can be produced without extensive knowledge of the original language of the text in question.
- Knowledge of sociocultural issues related to the country and language of origin of the text may be necessary.
- Engaging with texts the company of other translators is rewarding and provides a supportive social space to work.
- Keeping in mind that the rules of one language do not always apply to the rules of another can take the sting out of working with difficult material.
- In the case of poetry, watching a poet read/perform in their mother tongue can provide useful insights into the atmosphere and emotional trajectory of their work.
- Never be afraid to ask for help.