Friday, January 14, 2005

Homesick

It is the smell I miss the most.

Coming home to a sun-warmed, ceder house. The familiar presence of a home.

My cat trots up to met me and then protests my absence by switching her tail back and forth and walking of to find
another pool of light to lie in.

A bustling, metalic sound comes from the room that is almost too small to be called a kitchen. I imagine that it was the ironic wit of the architect to make it no larger than a hall, and then equip the living room with vaulted ceilings.

My mother is cooking my favorite foods. Aromas of beef stew, greenbeans and key lime pie mingle with the ceder. My father, happy to be home from work, is busy trying to distract my mother by flirting with her and telling bad jokes. He pulls at the strings of her apron and sneaks tidbits of food when she is not looking, or re-tying the her bow.

Sitting down at the table, my younger brother gives me a michevious look and belches a vibrato complant that he is hungry.

Napkins, forks, plates and spoons are all placed in an acceptable formation and glasses are filled with mom's home-brewed tea.

This is my family, and this is our home. It is in this place that I truely feel safe. The arms of my family are the walls that keep out the cold.

That is what I miss most of all.



His Eyes

I can tell me misses me
by the way he finds excuses to pull me close,
and bends down to smell my hair.

Sometimes when I open my arms to him
he grabs my waist
so hard
it hurts and I can't breath.

There is more behind his eyes
than I could hope to know.

And so much pain was never
given to me by any other person.

I feel that I hold his confused heart
in the deep resevoir of my hand.
And mine hides in fear.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Waiting

I hate waiting. 

Sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling that I've been waiting all my life.  For a smile, a gesture, an answer.  And that I'm about to break out of my skin from frustration and anxiety.  Like a bullet out of a gun. 

Today I'm waiting for a person, a camera and a window of hope.  The metal monstrosity that my professor assures me is a light kit, is waiting too.  For someone to flip the switch and be amazed the intensity of its spectrum.  For the electricity to travel up its battered, steel spine and flood its receivers with volts with which it will send light out into the world.  Like a blinding, white eye.  I am that light. 

My switch is waiting to be triggered, except I don't know where it is.  I feel like I have been swimming underneath the service of the water all my life, anticipating when I will break free and see that sky for the first time.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Critical Essay Final Draft

Critical Essay
By Jessica Long
English 321
Dr. Mitchell

Harryette Mullen’s Ode to Jayne Cortez

In “I am New York City” Cortez writes “i am new york city / here is my brain of hot sauce / my tobacco teeth my / mattress of bedbug tongue / legs aparthand on chin / war on the roofinsuits / pointed fingerpushcarts / my contraceptives all” (“I am New York City”). “I’m using my plan brain to imagine her fancy cortex” writes Harryette Mullen of Jayne Cortez, “as if the inquisitive iris of my galaxy-orbiting telescope could see as far as her vision…as is my duty-free bottle of jerk sauce could simulate the fire ant picante that inflames her tongue of rage” (28). Both Mullen and Cortez share the same zeal for using imaginative and powerful language in their poetry. As black women writers that lived through the Civil Rights movement, Cortez and Mullen have a powerful source that fuels their work. In “Fancy Cortex,” Mullen shows her gratitude for the influence of Cortez’s language.

In an interview with Cynthia Hogue, Mullen recalls that she was the only black, female English major at the University of Texas at Austin and remembers that her curriculum was void of any African American literature. “We didn’t read Invisible Man. We didn’t read Richard Wright. We didn’t read any black women,” said Mullen in her interview. Most of her knowledge of African literature came from folklore classes taught by Roger Abrahams, a white professor. “Here was this white man who was teaching me Afro-American culture, and it was practically all new to me,” Mullen told Hogue. Mullen tells Hogue that the way she experienced and began to understand black culture was through writing. Because there was not a long tradition of black literature, Mullen had to “expand [her] sense of black subjectivity” by talking about how the issue applied to her (Hogue). Mullen expresses her frustration as a student trying to understand a culture she was part of, but had no connection to:

Now I feel that I understand why I kept having this experience of ‘Why don’t I know this? Why is this the black culture and I don’t have a real familiarity with it?’ This is definitely a black culture that was marked for class and for gender in a way that did not include my own experience, for if you had talked about black people who go to church two or three days a week and who work very hard and are thrifty and try to avoid entanglements with the law, that is the culture I knew. Partly what was going on was that people were fascinated with those aspects of black culture that were most different from what they saw as white middle class culture. (Hogue)

Part of this unfamiliarity came from Mullen’s family living in a ‘white style.’ Growing up Mullen experienced the gap between ‘black’ and ‘white’ English, which she calls code-switching: “for instance, my family spoke standard English at home. Educated, middle-class, black speakers are code-switchers, and what we really did was learn to switch from standard English to a black vernacular in certain situations when that was called for” (Hogue). In essence Mullen had to learn two different languages. She refers to her black family as having ‘white style’ and distresses that many black children today believe that if they learn standard English that they are “less black” (Hogue).

In her career Mullen has used code-switching in her poetry, but it is clear that in “Fancy Cortex” she uses standard English when she speaks of Jayne Cortez (Hogue). It is interesting that Mullen uses proper English instead of using a black dialect in praise of another strong, black woman writer. It could be argued that Mullen was drawing on her tradition of ‘white’ or standard English to praise Cortez’ diverse, powerful language that embraces the part of black culture that Mullen never experienced growing up. Mullen is essentially trying to use her familiarity with the only part of black culture that she knew to praise Cortez’ familiarity of the black culture she never had.

“As if the trained nostrils of my narco-bloodhound could sniff out what she sense in the wind” (28).

Some of the culture that Mullen refers to can be found in Cortez’s “Morning”: “in the morning / gonna firedance in the petro / in the morning / turn loose the blues in the funky jungle / in the morning/ I said when you see the morning coming like / a two-headed twister / let it blowlet it blow / in the morningin the morning / all swollen up like an ocean in the morning / early in the morning” (Jayne Cortez.). In this poem Cortez seems to use a combination of ‘black’ and ‘white’ style. Words such as “funky,” “gonna firedance,” and “all swollen up” exemplify the black vernacular whereas the grammar is standard English. Cortez, in her own right, clearly code-switches as well.

“As if my shallow unschooled shoals could reckon the calculus of her konk’s brainwave tsunami” (28).

In constructing her newfound tradition, Mullen had to ask, “What are the qualities that are considered to be ‘black’ in literature” (Hogue). In talking with Hogue, Mullen mentioned Erica Hunt in reference to code-switching and Will Alexander in reference to surrealism. On the topic of surrealism Mullen also mentioned Jayne Cortez: “There is also Jayne Cortez, who also has connections to surrealism, but is seen as being really engaged with a black political consciousness in a ways that moves her work in another direction” (Hogue). Cortez is indeed involved with a “black political consciousness.” She is president of the Organization for Women Writers of Africa and also helps to plan the Yari Yari International Conference of Women Writers of African Descent (“Biography”).

“As if the speculative diagnosis of my imaging technology could chart the direction of her intuitive intellect” (28).

This strong connection to this ‘black consciousness’ is clearly shown in her poetry. In “If the Drum is a Woman” Cortez writes, “don’t become weak and cold and desert to your drum / don’t be forced into the position as an oppressor of / drums / and make a drum tragedy of drums / if the drum is a woman” (“If the Drum is a Woman”). Her abbreviated biography on her webpage describes her works as “political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound” (“Biography”). While Mullen was struggling to create a tradition for herself, Cortez already had found her poetical niche and mastered the sound and language of her poetry.

“As if the knots and tangles of my twisted psyche could mesh with her intricate synaptic network of condensed neutral convolutions” (28).

According to Voices from the Gaps, a website dedicated to the literary criticism of black women writers, Jayne Cortez embraces the black rights movement through her political and influential poetry: “Her razor sharp imagery and directness leave no room for questioning the intent of the author. Cortez's excrescent language and her ability to push the acceptable limits of expression to address issues of race, sex, and homophobia place her in a category that few other women occupy” (Voices from the Gaps). Cortez seems to not only embrace the values of black rights and black culture but takes the torch and runs with it. It is no mystery that Mullen would dedicate “Fancy Cortex” to Cortez for not only her influence on black culture, but also her personal influence on Mullen.

“As if the pedestrian software of my mundane explorer could map as rounded colonies the terra incognita of her undiscovered hemispheres” (28).

In Cortez’ poem entitled “American / Nigerian Relations: (They Want the Oil) she repeats the refrain “They want the oil / But they don't want the people” twenty times (Jayne Cortez). This is the deeply political poetry that Cortez is so well known for. The repetition of the refrain drives her point like a hammer driving a nail in to a wall. She is neither circuitous in reaching her point and makes no attempts to sugarcoat what she believes to be the truth. Her intentions are unmasked and direct. She simply comes out and says exactly what she means: “Cortez makes no mistake in her approach; she is constant and firm in her opposition to oppression, racism, and cultural marginality. She calls for a swift end to imposed dehumanization, and demands the creation of order and equality in our society” (Voices from the Gaps). It seems only natural that Cortez would choose to use such strong language to emphasis her message.

All the comparisons in “Fancy Cortex” that Mullen uses between Cortez and herself exemplifies Cortez’s powerful language that Mullen seems use as a muse. Good examples are: “speculative diagnosis” vs. “intuitive intellect,” “simple chalk” vs. “monumental reefs,” (28). Mullen’s comparison of her “twisted psyche” to Cortez’s “intricate synaptic network” is no less compelling than when Cortez uses the refrain of “They want the oil / But they don't want the people” (28, “American / Nigerian Relations: (They Want the Oil)”). In order to truly complement a potent author, Mullen is using her own potent diction.

Cortez also seems to have influenced Mullen politically as well, which is easily send in such poems as “Bilingualism”:
Californians say No
To bilingual instructions in schools

Californians say No
To bilingual instructions on ballots

Californians say Yes
To bilingual instructions on curbside waste receptacles

Coloque el recipiente con las flechas hacia la calle
Place container with arrow facing street

No ruede el recipiente con la tapa abierta
Do not tilt or roll container with lid open

Recortes de jardin solamente
Yard clippings only. (10)
It is evident that Mullen is using this poem to voice her disapproval of the treatment of Latin American people, in this case by the Californians, which is analogous to Cortez’s “If the Drum is a Woman.”

However, even though Mullen clearly drew on Cortez for insight, she in her own right has ascended out of the confused cultural tangles of her earlier years into a niche of her own mastery. While Cortez in straightforward and sometimes brutally blunt, Mullen invites the reader into a realm of beautiful of black culture, political awareness and intellectual exploration. Instead of giving the answer to the reader, Mullen asks her audience to search for it within their own experience. She enjoys playing with the sounds of words in “Blah-Blah,” “Jinglejangle” where each letter of the alphabet is variated in sound: “ack-ack, aye-aye / Baa baa, Baba, Bambam, Bebe, Berber, Bibi….Zizi, ZsaZsa, Zouzou, Zuzu,” (12, 34). Mullen’s poetry creates an atmosphere of clever and humorous censure where the readers find themselves marveling at the craft of her wit and the spectrum of her intensity. In the opinion of this author, Mullen has surpassed her ‘muse’ in Sleeping with the Dictionary and succeeded in creating her own black tradition that combines the soul of black culture with a standard English dialect. She truly has found her artistic foundation.

Mullen ends her poem with: “As if the grey matter of my dim bulb could be enlightened by the brilliance of her burning watts. As if her divergent universification might fancy microcosm of my prosaic mind” (28). Mullen draws on the powerful language of Cortez to paint the part of black culture she never knew, and her gratitude is unmistakable in “Fancy Cortex.”

Works Cited

Cortez, Jayne. “American / Nigerian Relations: (They Want the Oil)” Jayne Cortez.
3 Dec. 2004.

Cortez, Jayne. “I am New York City.” Jayne Cortez.
23 Nov. 2004

Cortez, Jayne. “Morning.” Jayne Cortez.
3 Dec. 2004.

Hogue, Cynthia. “Interview with Harryette Mullen.” Postmodern Culture. 9.2 (1999).
23 Nov. 2004. only/issue.199/9.2hogue.txt>

Jayne Cortez. “If the Drum is a Woman.”
23 Nov 2004.

Jayne Cortez. “Biography.” 29 Nov.
2004.

Mullen, Harryette. “Fancy Cortex.” Sleeping with the Dictionary. University of
California: Berkeley, 2002.

Voices from the Gaps : Women Writers of Color. “Jayne Cortez – Voices from the Gap.”
4 Dec 2004.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

News Essay Final Draft

News Essay
By Jessica Long
English 321
Dr. Mitchell

The Price of a Higher Education (Editorial)
Patrick carefully lifts his white rat out of the cage and gently lowers his arm into the round, metal container balancing precociously on the scale. His female lab rat, Natalie, has learned that she only has to tolerate the confines of the container for a moment and that Cheerios will soon follow.

As a junior Religion and Psychology double major, on top of participating in many extra-curricular activities such as Concert Choir and Cross Country, Patrick has little time to worry about how he will pay for his liberal arts education at Emory & Henry.

So how do students pay for college? Last summer, Patrick worked almost 40 hours a week for two months in a hospital cafeteria as a “food line worker” to help pay his expenses for the Concert Choir’s trip to Italy this Christmas. The florescent lights and the smell of mass produced food pervaded his summer break when most students are thought to be lying on the beach or taking road trips.

Paying for College
The price of a higher education has been a nationwide concern for many years. This past presidential election made the Pell Grants one of the major issues addressed by both candidates. During the Presidential debates, President Bush and Senator Kerry sparred over conflicting reports of funds and numbers of eligible students.

According to Congress, the Federal Pell Grant has been flat funded by the administration for the past two years, meaning the amount of money per student has been frozen. However the number of eligible students has gone up from 4.3 to 5.1 million students. Thus, the number of students getting funded has gone up, but the funding has not.

The Federal Student Aid Programs are the “largest source of college financial assistance, each year providing billions of dollars in funding.” These programs provide funding through grants (specifically the Pell Grant), loans and work-study jobs. The amount awarded to each student is determined by the financial need of that individual and how much the tuition will cost, as well whether or not he or she is a full or part time student.

The Red Tape
It all lies behind the FAFSA. In order to receive the Pell Grant, students must first apply for the FASFA. This generates a formula on an individual basis that takes into consideration the income of the student’s parents, taxes and basic living expenses. This formula results in the EFC, which is an estimate of how much a family is expected to spend on their child’s college education. If the EFC “is below a certain amount” then the student is eligible for the Pell Grant.

Virginia’s Financial Aid Programs
Patrick sits on the front steps of House 17 in his running clothes, trying to remember all the facets of his financial aid. “I did get a TAG grant, but its not much of a grant anymore” he said.

The VTAG (Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant), has suffered cuts in the past few years, causing local college students to find the additional financial aid elsewhere. The grant award is calculated by how much funding is available and how many students are eligible for the program.

In the “2004-2005 Tuition & Fees Report” released by the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia General Assembly appealed the 1996 freeze on tuition rates and now allows institutions to set the rates themselves according to the market for 2004-2005. The projected increase in tuition next year is nine percent. To compensate, “state funding to higher education will increase by $278 million over the next two years to help address the chronic under-funding of Virginia’s world-class system of higher education, support growing enrollments, and offset rising tuition costs.”

In another report entitled “Advancing Virginia Through Higher Education: The Systemwide Strategic Plan for Higher Education,” the government blames the under-funding due to economic difficulties, increased enrollment and the growing expectations of the public. This year, need based financial aid is short “at least $34 million” in helping underprivileged students. The report also includes a plan for the future to accomplish three goals by 2010: “accommodate at least 38,000 additional students, increase Virginia's national standing in sponsored research, enhance the Commonwealth’s commitment to instructional quality.” The number of students that are served and retained will calculate the success of this mission statement as well as how many graduate and how the programs rank nationally.

Emory & Henry College
Currently, Patrick holds the Byars Scholarship, the Dickenson Pre-ministerial Scholarship, the McGlothlin Memorial Scholarship and the Holsten Conference Grant. According to the financial aid department here at Emory, 98% of all students receive some form of financial aid and 74% are awarded need-based financial aid. An incoming freshman will receive about $11,500 in grants and scholarships.

Back in the lab, Natalie nestles herself in the crook of Patrick’s arm as he slowly walks to the room that houses the maze. He opens the door and places her in the narrow, wooden rat-sized corridor that leads to three different branches. Patrick counts out 15 Cheerios while making sure that Natalie doesn’t climb out of the miniature labyrinth. He places one Cheerio at the right branch along with the dice that she will learn to associate with food, and opens the dividing panel to let her begin the test. After each trial he switches the orientation of the dice and the Cheerio and patiently waits for Natalie to find the hidden treat at the end of the correct corridor. She doesn’t take the right direction every time, but she always finds her way and in the end manages to find the hidden treat.

The federal and state governments have taken the right direction toward increased funding for higher education, but still have yet to find the prize of equilibrium between the rates of tuition in the current market and the funding for financial aid. There is no magic formula for perfect financial aid funding, but there is a growing need for action and support from the government. The number of enrolled students requiring financial aid has broken the confines of early standards and needs to be addressed before this problem becomes an epidemic.

This article was written using information from ed.gov, vfic.org, ehc.edu and schev.edu

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Response to "The Shadow Knows"

Wow. This was a really powerful story. Because the author chose to delay some of the facts until later in the story, the sense of panic and confusion is well metered. Lowry weaves details of both interviews into a pattern of facts about the county that keeps the reader involved in the story. Because the information from the interviews conflict with each other it helps of escalate the feeling of confusion and disorientation.

It made me really angry that the townspeople had a really good idea what was going on an did nothing about it. It is ultimately the fault of Lonnie for what he did, but the fact that Social Services didn't take the children away at a earlier time is unacceptable. There is a social responsibility of the community to hold its members to code of conduct instead of turning of the TV and ignoring what they hear and see.

Lowry's writing is powerful and very controlled. It is a good example of how you can take a factual story and weave different elements that help the reader get a sense of where you are and whats going on. I only hope my essay is this engaging and creative.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Biographical Essay Final Draft

Biography Essay
By Jessica Long
English 321
Dr. Mitchell

A Recipe for Life


“And that was Grandma Effie...”

“One day my sister, she was a toddler, so I must have been, maybe five years old and we went down to see Grandma Effie. We wanted something to eat and were also curious. So you know how kids explore houses and things? Well she had this cabinet that had a pull out porcelain thing where she would make her biscuits and things like that; but there was this door that I did not know where it went to so I took a chair and climbed up on the cabinet and there was this bin so I took a hold of it and pulled it down. And about 20 pounds of flour came pouring down on my head, my little head, I mean there was such a big mess that we knew that we would never clean it up.”
My mother paused in her story. There on the table on the other side of the living room sparkled the one piece of Depression glass my mother had. The bright rainbow of iridescent colors always reminded me of car oil floating on a puddle. The edges receded in an out like a persistent wave. I remember her holding it up to the light in the antique store and seeing something more than just a plate. She saw her favorite grandmother. She saw Grandma Effie in the kitchen, cooking and working until her tired hands hurt. She saw tiny little pans that Effie used to melt butter in and the beautiful cake with pink stripes that no one in the family had ever been able to duplicate.
“So we were so frightened that we took off and in little puffs of flour flying everywhere from us. We hid because we knew that we were in big trouble. It wasn’t too long, she had come down from the garden and saw the mess (probably saw all the little footprints and figured it out) and she walked all the way up the hill because she knew that we would’ve been terrified. She just looked straight at me and said to me ‘I forgive you but never do it again.’ And that was Grandma Effie.”

“She was one to speak her mind”

Great-Grandma Effie lived in Ashe County, North Carolina and there was always wind blowing on the hill and food in the kitchen. My mother would sit on the porch and snap green beans or help her Grandma Effie wash the vegetables in the cold water from the pump. Effie always made sure my mother felt useful. When the family got together there was so much food on the table that you had to put your plate on your lap to eat. “And she wasn’t just a cook, she was a good cook so going to her house was always a treat. I think that was the way that she showed love to her family, always having them something good to eat.”
Effie was considered to be one of the beautiful women in the county. “I know this to be a fact,” my mother said, “because my other grandmother, Granny Hester, who was a mean woman, told me that. And I knew that if Granny Hester complimented someone then it had to be the truth.”
Effie had coal black eyes she got from her full-blooded Cherokee grandmother and a temper to match. My mother knew her only when her youthful complexion had given way to a sturdy frame and streaks of gray in her hair. After the work was done and everyone had lunch, Effie would take down her waist-long hair and brush it for a long time. And after that, she would put it back in the bun she always wore and would go back to working the farm and humming hymns.
One of her sons drowned in a creek. Two others went to fight in World War I. One of them died and other returned but was never the same. “I loved him very much, his name was Uncle Joe.” When her youngest son, Jay, was about to be drafted to the Korean War, Effie wrote to President Eisenhower that the Army had already had two of her sons and that she needed one to help her work the farm. Her son never went to war and she kept a framed picture of Eisenhower in the house. “She was one to speak her mind,” said mom.

“I missed her for a long time”

“She passed away when I was six years old from diabetes. I remember when we went to see her. I think that she had asked to see me. I remember being up high in my dad’s arms and looking down at her, and that was the last time I ever saw her.” Tears formed at the corners of my mother’s eyes, and I saw the child that missed her grandmother’s warm arms and her strong spirit.
“When she passed away, there was just something that happened to the family. They did get together and eat sometimes, but there was never the laughter and the joy and the fun that had been [there] when I was a really small girl. I really missed her for a long time.”
Great-grandma Effie cared about people and loved her family. She withstood the erosive temper of her husband. He was brutal at times, but he never got over her death. “He would talk about Effie and tears would come to his eyes because he missed her so much and he loved her. He was mean, but he loved Effie.” Her funeral was held at a primitive Baptist church and it was the only time my mother ever saw her father cry.
Effie’s love and devotion had left a lasting impression on my mother and her family. “She had a recipe for life,” my mother said.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Response to "All Things Censored"

MY OPINION:
I really liked this essay.

WHY:
Espada is straightforward and captivating. His clever use of figurative language and his balanced tone provide a crisp and unique insight into political writing. By beginning his essay with a short sentence, he provides an almost percussive feel, a staccato beat in his battle to shed new light on Mumia. "I was an NPR poet" (270).

The author strengthens his case by continuously citing facts: "In July 1997," "in a statement to WCVB-TV in Boston," etc. His specific use of dates creates a timeline in the minds of the readers that helps to place the events that Espada describes.

As a Mass Communications major, I am inspired by how Espada really took Mumia’s story to heart and ran with it. He manages to professionally distance himself, and at the same time passionately argue Mumia’s case. He balances his opinions and sympathies for Mumia with facts and dates.

The poem itself is beautifully structured despite the graphic nature of the event. The well-chosen line breaks create effective and dramatic pauses. Espada’s descriptions of the prostitute and the tributaries of blood are honest and apt.

I really liked this essay.