David Herd’s Through is not only a well-written, cohesive collection of poems; it’s a story about how syntax, about “who leaves the language” (11), about appellants who are “rarely white” (12), who are “spirited away. Barely rendered present in the first place” (13). Through is a story about immigration rights in England, a rendering that causes anger and frustration, a desire for change.
Time is movement. It is a passage of space and momentum and feeling and importance. Chronologically speaking, this is most vital conversion in human existence (in my opinion), because we can learn SO MUCH from history. That is why, to diagnose Through, I chose my watch.
I wear my watch everyday (on the inside, as it should be), and I looked at it as I was reading this poetry by Herd. I thought about the word ‘suspend’ that Herd uses, extensively. To temporarily suspend time and sequence is such a graceful interruption. Similar to old shows like Saved By The Bell when Zach Morris can pause the scene, and speak to us: this suspension is vital to the plot, and audience’s interpretation. I have a stopwatch on my watch, and I can, too, suspend time for my own time-keeping abilities and desires. But, this idea of suspension, specifically in this book and title, is ironic.
To me, this book is about ‘moving through’ things. Of course there are deeper meanings within the smaller poems, but broadly if I could summarize ALL the poems into one word — it would be on very similar to the word through (thank God that’s the title…). Perhaps a word like movement, fluid, exist — any one that suggests momentum, but a slow one. This book encompasses many themes, and all have to do with change. Whether that be within politics, people, the environment, or personal goals, this poetry is about opening doors, and walking through them. The most important movement in this book is time: the change in politics, speakers, and important faces and voices. Or just the time throughout the day, and the changing of that concept, is imperative as well. From the images of birds to sunsets, it is chronological statement of day in and day out, and of political state of affairs.
My watch represents this fluidity, or lack thereof in terms of suspension of time. This is directly related to the political environment, the faces involved, and the personal journey between doors. The concept of moving through something, is based on time. The old saying that is often said to those grieving is: “time heals all wounds” — now, we will not get into this cliche, but the idea of time healing wounds isn’t what I care about. What I am interested in is the idea of eventually, time resolving hurt. It is funny though, how history repeats itself. Maybe we are wearing the cast, just to soon break the same bone again…
Without entering any political climate territory, reading Through with this lens of time has helped me to understand the book as one segment, continuously. Reading the book in this way helped me to see the movement of the pieces, together and fluidly, yet separate and suspended, as well.
I suggest reading this book of poems perhaps on a timer, or a metronome, and use this to feel the way the rhythm feels to time, and the way the concepts and content do as well.
From my reading of Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands, and from our reading and discussion of Through in class, I’ve been thinking about spaces. Anzaldúa notes that a “borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition” (3). I think the concepts in Through relate well to borders, but I’ve been trying to consider transitory spaces or events from my own life.
One transitory event that my mind immediately jumps to is graduation. Specifically from high school, because I’ve already done that, but also graduating from college as an undergrad, since that will be happening this May. It’s interesting to me how, as a society, we’ve constructed major moments of transition. Graduation is one, but so are moments like being able to test for your driver’s license, or being able to vote, or drink alcohol. Looking at alcohol specifically, and how in the U.S. the legal drinking age has changed from eighteen, to nineteen, to the current age of twenty-one, it’s obvious that these moments are constructed by external forces. We all eventually reach those moments.
When I think of moving through, I think of moving on, or maybe passed. For Anzaldúa, and the people living in borderlands, their culture is constantly being moved through, and even passed. These zones are basically blind spots to everyone that simply moves through them. Acknowledging that, and looking at transitory experiences from my own life, I think it’s important to not look passed those moments. It’s important to not only see what’s on either side. This is a confusing concept, and I’m still trying to fully conceptualize my thoughts on it, but I think I know that it’s important, either way.
After reading poems that mentioned Cy Twombly and Giorgio Amgabam in relation to each other, for this week’s tangible object, I decided to research Cy Twombly and Giorgio Amgabam to look into how they relate to David Herd’s poetry in Through.
In the poem VI, “As one might say/ This first day of spring/ Now it is backed by sunlight/ Itself/ Against the crosswires/ Like Cy Twombly.” pg. 40 Herd first mentions Cy Twombly. After reading this, I later discovered that Cy Twombly was an artist who worked across multiple decades. One of the most distinctive elements of his biography was that his painting style had changed after the 1950s, which could be due to Twombly’s involvement in war during that time and how he worked as a cryptologist. After this experience, his paintings were described as a regression of his past paintings. From the terms “Crosswires” and “backed like sunlight” I assumed that Herd could be a referencing Twombly’s post-1950s paintings, many of which featured lines that could resemble crosswires.
While we can assume that Herd is using Twombly’s artwork to further expand on bleak imagery, there is another poem that places Twombly’s artwork within the context of Agamben. In the poem, VIII Herd writes, “Like Twombly articulated by Agamben/ Designated/ Falling beauty” (pg. 42).
First, we must look at who Giorgio Agamben is. Through research, I found that he is an Italian philosopher that believed that throughout time, there have been instances of governments degrading the status of people into “bare bodies” as opposed to individuals. Agamben calls this living in a state of exception, in which a nation’s authorities justify the degradation of human bodies in order to do what’s best for public safety. Amgbam considers an example of a state of exception to be the treatment of people in the Holocaust, where the nation’s authorities allowed people to be degraded to numbers.
I imagine that Agamben would comment on Twombly’s work that the paintings aren’t just bleak, but that they reflect a regression of art. By relating Twombly’s art with these poems, the narrator’s environment could be seen as a regression of what’s considered normal in life. This can go further to describe the environment of the syntax section as a whole, that in an environment that looks at syntax so closely, there may be a regression of words and their meaning. This idea of regression can be alluded to in the poem through the term, “Falling Beauty.”
I was impressed with how Herd incorporated context in his writing and that these references allowed him to build more on ideas without the expansion of an explanation. I’m curious if Herd expects readers to understand the references about Agamben and Twombly or if those references simply exist to enrich the world of the poem.
Thank you for reading this, enjoy your day!
I’m just gonna pose a question and give my answer since I can’t think of any good segues.
On what medium do you write poems?
All the talk on form, paper receipt rolls in class, and my compulsions to eavesdrop on conversations in workshop (we’re all writers here; we all do it) just had me thinking. Paper and computer screens take up two very different forms. Paper is tactile and takes up physical space, while digital words don’t. Granted, poems can be typed and printed out and will always clear at legible (probably). I think I’m more concerned with the process by which poems take up their first iterations, their first forms, though. Does it start out handwritten or typed up? Does that change how we write the poem? Does it change the end product?
Personally, I prefer writing things on loose-leaf, but typing is just quicker, easier to change, and easier to adjust things as I go. I find writing poems using my hand brings me to a more content focused part of my brain as the words just flow out, but I cross things out, add carrots, draw arrows, and mess the whole thing up until it gets messy. My handwriting doesn’t do it any favors either—I do this thing where my lowercase “h”s flatten out so they look like “L”s on the page, which I’ve noticed for a few years now but I can’t seem to shake it.
The transition to typeset is an important step if I do begin in pencil, maybe even more than the initial writing. The poem actually becomes something, it finds a concrete shape I can play with rather than just draw pictures declaring my intention to play with the shape on college rule. I try my best to convey formal choices, but conveying and applying are two different things. On paper, it’s an idea; on screen, it’s a poem.
It may be a relatively simple question I’m asking, but I think the genesis of a poem’s form can have lasting impact on how it matures. So, how do you write poems?
Thanks for reading.
After work-shopping my first poem, I decided I wanted to do something different with my second poem. Largely I’ve found myself writing poems about relationships, and love, I suppose, but there’s so many ways to see one topic.
With my first poem, I wanted to capture a memory, and in doing so, capture how it feels to be kind of stuck in the past. I think as a writer I’ve become accustomed to trying to fill in the gaps of my life, the areas I can’t understand or rationalize, by writing them anew in my head. This is sort of dangerous, though, and often it makes me feel like I’m trapped in those re-writings.
My first poem tried to deal with that idea. I wanted to show how memories can be addictive; they become more enticing than real life if you let them. But I also wanted to show that they’re hollow. In my second poem, I found myself still writing about relationships, but I didn’t want to write about the same thing.
I tried to focus more on indulging in vices. In the case of that poem, the relationship was more about the speaker and pain, than the speaker and the “Dear” of the poem.
Going forward, thinking about crafting a portfolio, it seems pretty likely that much of my poetry this semester will be about relationships, memories, dreams, and my relationship to all of those things. But, I don’t want one poem to bleed into the next, I don’t want them to be replications of each other. That sounds boring. So moving forward, I’m going to really focus on making sure each poem has a unique identity, even if the subject matter feels somewhat consistent throughout my portfolio.
Have any of you thought about your portfolio yet? Do you see yourself working/returning to similar ideas in each of your poems?
Everyone knows how hard it can be living with someone you often butt heads with. This frustration often leads to people being passive aggressive and saying things that can offend others. I know this because I am currently living though it.
When I find myself dealing with issues such as these, and I have little to no control over the situation, I like to take my anger and put it into my writing. This can either result in an aggressive piece or something with deep emotion. In a way I am appreciative of these experiences because it helps drive me to write about things that are personal and meaningful.
Poetry is like my own personal journal. The things I write are intimate and often help guide me through my own problems that I may not know how to deal with. Even if you may not be the best poet, I am a strong believer that poetry or any sort of writing can help one relieve stress and become all around healthier mentally.
Looking up the background for words that are important to my writing was really interesting. I often use the themes of the body and touch through my writing. I know what they mean and are but I don’t often think of what the words mean and what their background is. I like to write about physical interactions because it has become really interesting to me the different ways a person can touch another. It is also interesting to me the different ways a persons touch can affect the other. It was really cool to see the different words used to define body and touch because now it has given me more words to incorporate in my poetry.
Knowing more of the background of words I use to talk about topics I’m already passionate about can really help the writing process and give me a wider range in my writing.
One of the highlights of my fall break is seeing the “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday. This was a really special occasion because it was closing day, the Met Museum was open on a Monday, and I could witness couture in real life. The “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit is part of the Met Costume Institute, which organizes costume and couture in a stunning exhibit. In order to raise money for acquiring both elements, the Met hosts the Met Gala/Met Ball to pay, which is when Rihanna basically owns the red carpet. Sometimes celebrities go on theme, a lot of times they don’t.
Heavenly Bodies is organized around the theme of the Catholic Imagination, which most designers have interpreted as a white European of a certain generation imagination. These pieces revolved around a certain opulence, and often repeat similar biblical motifs such as the colors red, black, gold, white, and blue. Some of the designers featured were Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, Thom Browne, John Galliano, and many more.
I find a lot of inspiration from fashion because fashion can go in so many directions. Whether you design a piece of clothing for the mall shopper (which is totally valid) or design a piece of clothing as a conceptual art piece (which is also totally valid), that premise is always at the heart of fashion no matter how much capitalism tries to assign value to things. A lot of the big fashion designers now are part of two huge conglamorates called LVMH and Keuring, and it dismays me to see that sometimes. But that premise always gives me hope.
What other forms of art are you guys inspired by? Is there a perception of this form of art that is ill-informed?
Can you assign value to art at all?
Fall Break will be over soon and on Wednesday, most if not all of us will be asked what we did during our time off. While many of us would like to say that we got a jump start on that paper that’s due, or finally got to read that book, I can honestly say that I didn’t do much, especially when it comes to academia.
Fall Break always seems to hinder my productivity. I often come home and realize that despite it being home there is so much to do with my family that I often never get a chance to have alone time, let alone time to do school work. As I type this I’m picturing all my textbooks, even poetry books that are currently in my backpack that I haven’t yet read. However, during this break, I noticed that home is also where I become the most creative. I’m not recommending procrastinating responsibilities for the sake of inspiration but I do think that when I’m on break, my mind has time to dwell and reflect. Of course, I’m not always in the greatest mood when I write during this time, but words flow from me more rawly than they would at school.
Over break, I took my mom to the emergency room (it was non-life-threatening so no worries!!!) and through the process of getting c-t scans and a diagnosis, my mom and I were there well over five hours. This wouldn’t be so bad, however, for least three of those hours, visitors were not allowed with their patient. After an hour sitting in the waiting room, I decided to get some coffee from the cafeteria. While I was there, I remembered thinking that I would have brought my neuro-psych textbook if I knew I’d have so much time to myself. With my hospital coffee and an empty table all to myself, I found myself typing on my google docs app about an idea of a new protagonist and how they would sound in my head. This burst of creativity hasn’t happened to me in a while. Later in the weekend I started writing more and jotting down some stanzas of poetry that came to me when I was waiting for the next family activity. During this time I realized that I was the most productive in writing when I seemed to fail at my normal level of productivity.
This realization led me to two reflections. The first being: I prioritize the manual labor of school work more than writing and my creativity suffers from it. Having so many amazingly creative friends allows me to look at my lack of progress honestly and see how their work ethic pays off in their writing and during this time off, I was able to see for myself how my creativity could expand when I had the time to do so. I think coming back to school I need to fight for my craft the way I fight for time to read my textbooks. If I don’t study in a span of two days I get antsy, and I should feel this more for my creative endeavors because those areas need my attention too.
Secondly: Home has been a source of a lot of my writing, whether I like it or not. My poems have been a little bleaker, but I think that this is the place where I’m at and it feels good to produce work that feels authentic to me. I’ve always heard that writing is therapeutic and I think a lot of my work, both in fiction and poetry has been a reflection of something in my past, whether I was conscious or unconscious of it at the time. While being home makes me feel unproductive, it has also been an opportunity to retreat back and use this time as a source instead of a roadblock to my poetry. Hopefully, my writing will move to another source soon (like the bank lol) but until then I might as well make the most of this stage in my life.
If anyone has similar experiences about their productivity during fall break I would love to hear!