Goodbye, 2013.

As 2013 draws to a close, I muse upon it and see it as the only year that I’ve been able to keep my New Year’s Resolution of writing one poem and one other piece per week.  Although I’m not too sure how it has helped me as a writer, it has certainly helped me get through a few dark patches during the year by allowing me to play my thoughts out through the typed medium.  It made me realize that practice makes better, but perfect is unattainable because I should never truly be satisfied by where I am as a writer.  Forcing myself to write allowed me to experiment with different forms of writing and poetry, and it has really been a blessing.  Hopefully, I can continue keeping up the pace next year, but I have a different New Year’s Resolution in mind for 2014.  This is going to be a combined post because the last day of the year falls in the early middle part of the week.

A year has gone by with travails all passed,

heart-shards collected where troubles amassed.

The highs and the lows all natural sights,

valleys and peaks of mysterious lights.

The year has been swell, I raise this next one

to glorifying Him as He teaches a ton.

The winter begins a year of new reasons

as I look forward to the changing of seasons.

Melt ice away through heat of life’s love

as I set my mind upon things of above.

Advertisements

Adventure Time.

The crackling wood that’s underfoot

haunts a frightened me.

The question is: should I here put

my foot and trust that tree?

Yet deeper down we travel on,

lead the way I say,

As I now stuff a nervous yawn,

viewing the lost way.

We stumble down the icy way,

grasping each branch aid.

Forty minutes spent that day

loving what God made.

Despite the fear and threats to fall,

I trusted in His sovereign call;

Glorify Him who made it all,

Whose power ever does enthrall.

Plagiarism.

I think it’s time for me to come clean.  It’s taken way too long for me to realize how dishonest I’ve been in taking credit for what I write.  The truth is, I’m not actually that great of a writer; I’ve been taking material from a friend and using it in all my works.  I first discovered that this friend was a great writer in 10th grade, and I began getting to know him.  Then, I asked him for a favor.  I asked him to give me the words that he would use in his own essays; in essence, I asked him to write all of my assignments.  No one knew that I was doing this in high school, so they all thought that I had suddenly become this amazing writer.  The things “I” began doing with words were impossible given my background in English – low STAR testing scores, bad reading comprehension, and poor essay writing.  I began taking credit for his work that he did on my behalf.  It was interesting, really, because I began taking pride in the fact that I was getting these scores, not remembering that I was a mere low-life in my credit-taking plagiarism.  The pride got to me, and I began to start expecting the good scores to come my way; asking was no longer an option, but a routine.  Yet he wouldn’t mind, and he continued supplying me with his time and effort until the work was finished.

That friend is God.  Without him, there’s no way that I could construct the sentences I even constructed in tenth grade.  However, it wasn’t until lately that I began considering how much I actually glorify Him with my works.  The pride in my own work after getting certain grades began to be disgusting even to myself.  The praise that I finally began receiving for actually knowing how to do something well, by His mercy, began getting to me.  Prior to this, I had been starved of encouragement and motivation to do work because of the constant pressure that certain people around me gave me; it was as if there was always a better result to what I had done.  However, in writing, I finally saw the flexibility in it, how there is no better answer than the one given at the moment.  And it was in those moments that God chose to give me words to put onto paper.  It has never been anything of myself, but God’s working in me that allows me to finish what I am writing and not remember having written a single word of it.  It’s been good practice for testing when I am in sync with what God wants of me in my faith as well; if I am striving, then I am not resting in His ability to overwhelm me and direct me.  Often, the pieces that I remember are the ones that I struggled to squeeze out by my own aptitude and not of the natural flow that existed with Him and His guidance.  So, I apologize for deceiving you all, but I am not the writer that you thought I was.  However, if you’re interested, God is a much better writer, and talking to Him may lead to you discovering how He manages to be as brilliant as He is.

Wind at My Back.

The wind is at my back now, pushes further on,

a whistling soft and easy, as breeze becomes my song.

The ground below, whether friend or a foe

is constant changing, so I’ll never know.

Errant path viewed as erroneous way,

the wind whispers whatever He would say:

Not a sparrow falls apart from Himself,

so blow the dust off the mind’s old bookshelf.

Wherever I go, His will will be true,

I just pray for grace in a sky turning blue;

mistakes will be made, but Love should not fail

for God is in all, and His will shall prevail.

And so we forgive, for He forgave first,

sending His Son to begin our rebirth.

Mercy desired, sacrifice cast off

yet how many “know,” and still dare to scoff?

I pray for forgiveness deep in my heart,

that I may be swift and as sure as a dart

to forgive those around me, moved by His love

understand why I’ve been called from above.

I pray for His wisdom, to know what to do

for this world is dying, and lest I should rue,

may He grant me discernment in speech every day.

I pray for the fear of Him, knowing His way.

The wind blows on, and the thoughts are all lost,

but Lord, I pray that I remember the Cross.

Change.

As I glumly sat behind the wheel of my minivan a few days ago, I began reflecting on things.  This prompted me to remain still at a green light, leading to the expected honking of people upset with the lack of action in their own lives.  However, the thing I began musing on was about how much I’ve changed.  I began thinking about my winter break and what I would be doing with it, and I came to the point where I reminisced on how I spent them in the past.  The realization settled on me when I discovered that I no longer enjoyed staying home alone and doing solitary things, like reading for hours.  It was a bitter moment actually; part of the blame was on college and how the forced interaction somehow stole a bit of my personality, dissipating any desire I had to be alone.  The need for human contact was, in a way, a crippling inability to exist and entertain myself independently.  However, the moment was fleeting when I began reflecting on my spiritual life as of now.  I began seeing that I had always been blessed with an ability to communicate fairly well with others – the exterior reserved, awkward, aloofness was the only thing that made me unable to reach out to others.  Now, I find myself in an internal skirmish come social gatherings; do I continue on with my newfound self, much of which has changed drastically, or do I let my old personality refresh itself.  It’s a question that I find harder and harder to answer with each meeting of old friends.  My life now is filled with God because of the environment that He’s placed me in, and yet, I’m not sure how it would be reflected if I did some of the things I used to do in order to get along with my old friends.  I have since limited my swearing exponentially, normally catching myself before saying them, but it was that casual usage of it that seemed to let me “fit in.”  All of this reflection is beginning to wear me out, so I guess I’ll just finish with a reminder that the true friends of mine won’t mind, and that as long as this new change doesn’t reflect my human judgment of my old friends but God’s love for them, I should be alright in the end.

Oh, Sick.

Being sick is perhaps one of the most deplorable conditions of a student’s life.  There’s just simply no way to think, everything becomes amplified in its sheer ability to frustrate you, and each day that you’re sick is another day not worth being awake for.  Sickness reminds you of how incredibly unreliable the body is.  However, sickness also helps us appreciate the small things of our health so much more.  The ability to breathe through your nose, hear things properly, and live life without the treacherous, constant shivering.  When that one side of the nose that has been plugged up all day finally clears and allows oxygen safe passage through it, life gains an immeasurably greater prospect of hope.  And then when the phlegm that has been plaguing your lungs finally is hawked up through the throat and out the mouth…the relief is unimaginable.  But best of all is when the foggy veil of what-is-even-going-on is lifted and you begin understanding what is being said to you, and you can actually hold a decent conversation with the hapless interlocutor dealing with your mental languor at the moment.

The state of being sick does not exactly help one’s desire to read the word of God at all either.  When the words seem dry sometimes in a state of thriving health, the mind has no desire to further bog itself down with the message of thousands of years.  However, there is also the temptation of reading the Word just to try and haggle with God; my time spent reading Your Word for the healing of my sickness.  I’m not sure how I feel about this situation when it happens in my own life.  I feel guilty because I feel like I’m merely bribing God to heal me with an outward act, but at the same time, I am reading the Word and storing whatever message He has prepared for me that day.  It’s a strange situation to be certain; one thing is for sure, it’s led to very interesting debates with Him about what it amounts to in the eternal race.  Either way, healed or not, I pray to persevere in the reading of the Word so that I may at the very least be spiritually refreshed that day, even if my physical condition seems to antagonize me at every turn.  There is hope beyond the suffering, joy beyond the tears.

Mountains and Valleys.

Ascend to the summit and a miracle’s seen;

a beautiful crescent moon, stars from a dream.

The eyes of the world, consumed with desire,

the rich earth, clear water, passionate fire.

The love of the universe, held up aloft,

replacing fell dreams and a heart broken soft.

Descend now below, to the valleys of yore,

see the bald heads of dandelions galore.

Wishes all gone, hope tossed to the wind;

the heart of the sky ends just to begin.

A low is a start, no deeper depth lies.

The point of new tries and forgotten demise.

Many Views of a Metro Station.

Note: This is merely an academic paper that I’m posting here because finals are upon me, and my inspiration runs dry due to the taxing nature of academic writing!  My apologies for the incoming read.

The original poem (yes, that is the punctuation given):

In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound
The apparition       of these faces       in the crowd   :
Petals      on a wet, black    bough   .

Benjamin Fan

Professor Huang

English 104A

12/6/13

Many Views of a Metro Station

During his time in France, Ezra Pound witnessed a singularly normal event while standing at La Concorde train station; he saw the faces of people passing by in a crowd waiting to board the arriving train. Yet, this placed an image within him, and he translated that image onto paper, penning the poem “In a Station of the Metro.” At first glance, the poem seems simple due to its meager verbiage and seemingly excessive gaps, but Pound may, perhaps, have actually been using the imagery of the poem to ponder the aspect of individualism in modernity. Having led a life that had traversed the depths of human esteem and attained the heights of literary distinction, Ezra Pound was no stranger to the image of the individual within the context of society. The poem renders a subtly stirring image of the impact of the individual to the reader. The image of the individual and the emphasis on the individual is intensely present throughout the poem in the words that Pound chooses, the various images that arise from those words, and the gaps that relate the images together. From these literary devices that Pound employs in the poem, he provides a brief stay against the confusion of losing the individual among the masses.

While poetry is generally dependent on the words chosen to fully give the poem meaning, Pound’s approach to poetry, with influence from the Japanese haiku, allows the reader very little to work with in order to truly present an unmarred and objective image. His imagism removes the dependence on adjectives to contain the original portrait of the picture that he saw, effectively removing any background associations the reader might have with those adjectives. Having understood this, it necessitates the close examination of each word that he chooses. The first noun that occurs in the poem is “apparition.” One found in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is, “[t]he action of appearing or becoming visible,” and this is the first image that Pound would have us see depicting what he saw in the train station. The appearance of the faces is what Pound is directing our focus to, and the fact that it is the first noun in the poem affirms this. However, a more obscure definition of the word found in the OED is, “[a] deceptive appearance counterfeiting reality; an illusion, a sham.” This definition adds a deeper facet to the portrayal that Pound provides; it speaks to the deceptiveness of the appearance – how the appearance of these faces might make it seem like they are standing out of the crowd, but questioning the reality of this individualism. In regards to individualism, it is worth noting the word “crowd” at the end of the line. It is the poetic foil to the individual “faces” that he speaks of because the crowd is the aggregate society in which faces hold no defined identity. Again, the definition of “crowd,” which reads, “[t]he people who throng the streets and populous centres; the masses; the multitude,” reinforces the notion of individualism in the setting of the lone individual, the flaneur, trying to determine his place among the many.

In the second line, the poem evolves into a nature poem as he chooses to begin the line with “petals.” There is no color, count, or quality of the petals provided; we are merely given the word. However, the freedom the reader has to determine what the petals look like and in varying degrees of abundance reflects the control the individual has on how he makes himself known. Just as the petals will be what they will be in the reader’s mind from past encounters with petals, the individual desires to find who he is and discover his own identity by way of experience. Pound only uses two adjectives in the poem, “wet” and “black.” The two words modify “bough” and are entirely simplistic in their descriptions as well. They represent exactly what they are, and again, leave little room for interpretation from the audience. These static adjectives are used to describe the static conditions that the petals find themselves in, and they lend an air of coldness to the poem due to the darker connotations of both words. “Wet” and “dark” can both be associated with a rainstorm, and the choice of adjectives here only serves to strengthen Pound’s poetic intent as opposed to weakening or obscuring the main picture. These adjectives refer to “bough,” which actually empowers the notion of individualism. Although “petals” itself is plural, which seems to run askance of the individualist theme, the notion of individualism is reinforced, in a similar way to the “faces,” by contrasting the last word of the line, which is “bough.” The bough is one of the main branches of a tree, and it is bound to have varying clusters of petals all along it. So, in a sense, the word “bough” enhances the individual clusters of “petals,” and therefore, the petals become nature’s metaphor for the individual among the collective mass.

These images that are produced of the “one in the many” and the “petals on a wet, black bough” are all images that Ezra Pound intended for the audience to contemplate. Having written this poem right around the advent of the silent film in popular culture, Pound’s poetry, when read, has the effect that a silent film would have. The “apparition” of the faces is a typical scene from a film, and it employs the knowledge and understanding of human perception to subtly have the audience focus on those individual faces as he mentions their appearance. However, the blur that is the moving train eventually comes to a standstill; he ends the first line with “crowd” to produce the image of the train slowing, which is when the instinctual tendency to isolate faces becomes surmounted by the sheer number of faces. In the modernist setting, the scenes of the crowd and the individual are still present in the films currently produced. There is a tacit focus on how the individual easily can be lost in the sea of faces, and in order to preserve his identity, the individual must be constantly moving, searching for his own identity to hold onto.

When it comes to the images purveyed in the second line, a similar message behind the images is seen. The silhouette of “petals on a wet, black bough” is especially reminiscent of cherry blossoms, and that connection is supported by Pound’s proclivity for the Japanese culture in more than a few aspects of his poetry. The symbolism of the cherry blossom in Japanese culture is one that represents the transient, ephemeral brilliance of life, and Pound places this unique characteristic in a damp, dark setting. The petals themselves, when in bloom are brilliant, just as the individual, when fully aware of who he is, is luminous; however, that radiance is short-lived, as the bough, which can be taken for the aspect of “the rest,” is wet and black, producing an image of futility and despair. When the bough is wet, regardless of the lighting, it is impossible to use it as firewood – the passion or fire simply cannot be ignited, both literally and figuratively in the poem. In the dark, it is difficult to fully ascertain the majesty of a cherry blossom, or any other flower for that matter, and it is Pound’s reinforcement of the notion that the individual is always at the risk of having his identity swallowed up by bland, dim qualities of his environment as a willing or unwilling participant of the masses.

Finally, the odd gaps between phrases of the poem are a way of having the sight of the poem itself be telling of what Pound was attempting to convey. In the combination of form and function, structural image of the poem and mental image of the poem, Pound places spaces in between certain phrases throughout the poem. He puts spaces between all of the nouns in the first line, and between phrases that can stand alone as pictures in the second line. The reason he places these gaps in between the nouns of the first line is to demonstrate distinction and opposition between all of them. “The apparition,” as mentioned before, is only the illusion or deception of being an individual; the “faces” phrase labels a group of individuals that stands out, but are constantly under the pressure of being “in the crowd” and losing their identity. The first phrase is a reflection upon the potential conditions of the second phrase in relation to the third, and testing whether it is a true appearance of individualism, or just individuals deceiving themselves into believing that they have managed to escape the many.

The next set of gaps is more interesting in that not all of the phrases contain nouns. However, the device that is at work in the second line is the physical separation of images; Ezra Pound uses words that are poignant enough to generate separate images, and he goes to separate them physically within the poem to create a greater contrast effect. Upon the sole word “petals,” a multitude of vivid images may flash through the reader’s mind; at once, Pound removes the assumed, flowery images with a completely incomplete scene of “wet” and “dark.” The image that occurs mentally at this junction of the poem is perhaps one of a storm or after a storm. Finally, he ends with the bough, the natural representation and remind that there are others on the bough, begging the question of what sets one set of petals apart from any other set. Again, the gaps set the phrases at harsher contrast than if they were spaced regularly; the pleasant ambience of the petal image in contrast with the gloom and uncertainty concluded by the ongoing question of whether or not the latter image will drown out the former.

Ezra Pound’s poetry is simply one of the most efficient uses of the language available in literature. While utilizing the imagism that he was so fond of, he also manages to imbue a completely different kind of image into his poetry. Whether intentional or not, Pound knew better than most where the power of words lay, and he exhibits the multifaceted nature of the language in this poem. A poem written about something seen in a metro station has the nuanced influence of being a message in support of individualism and the individual’s plight against the crowd. It is this influence is a testament what the individual can achieve when he overcomes.