Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mountains and Rivers, Part II

Instructions and Study Questions for October 3 class on Mountains and Rivers Without End

1. Finish Reading MRWE.
2. Read the concluding chapter of Dr. Hunt's book, and read the introductory chapters, if you haven't already.
3. You have all been assigned to one of the three remaining sections of MRWE, which means you are expected to:
A. Read that entire section extra carefully, seeking out "trails," exploring connections among the poems, and seeking a sense of structure and rationale for the section, as well as how it fits within the overall book.
B. Read the corresponding section in Dr. Hunt's book, using the contexts he researched to inform and enhance your exploration described in part A.
C. Divide amongst the group the 10 poems in each section and formulate an interpretation of the poems assigned to you, both as an individual piece, and discussing its place in the section and in the overall book. What other poems in MRWE share themes, motifs, and/or structure with your poem?
4. On the day of the class, all of the 30 remaining poems should be "covered" by someone who will lead discussion of the poem, reading an excerpt you consider significant from the poem, and reporting on your findings. At the end of each section, the people assigned to it will weigh in on the structure and rationale for the section, and how the section fits within the overall book.

Avoid preparing elaborate presentations that require setup or elaborate technology, since we will have an aggressive amount of material to cover.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mountains and Rivers, Part I

I just scanned the first part of Mountains and Rivers Without End and attached it to the Course Links. You can download it and read it, or print it out and read it.

I will take a printout to the SAC Tuesday morning.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Instructions for Next Class

As you may already know, Mountains and Rivers Without End did not arrive at Libreria Universal, but Genesis, Structure and Meaning... did. So here's the new plan of action.
1. Order a copy of Mountains and Rivers Without End, using your favorite online bookseller. I looked at and they had copies for about $12 and used copies starting at about $3. I recommend you order a used copy and have it rushed over ASAP (as soon as possible) in order to get your copy on time to read it for next week. In the meantime, I will place a copy in Reserve at the Library so you can start reading (which will not be available until Wednesday).
2. I will photocopy and place the first part of Mountains and Rivers without End at the SAC (or SAE, however it's called) early on Monday morning. Go get your copy so you can be prepared for class on Wednesday.
3. Read up to page 113 of Genesis, Structure, and Meaning in Gary Snyder's Mountains and Rivers Without End. You can purchase it at Libreria Universal, if you haven't yet done so.
4. Analyze and formulate an interpretion at least one of the longer poems or two shorter poems in the section.
5. Consider the study questions posed for the class on Metropolitan Fantasies in relation to the reading for this week.

I apologize for the inconvenience that not having the book readily available represents. If you need help getting the book, let me know.

By the way, Dr. Anthony Hunt will be visiting our class both Wednesdays, so I expect you all to be very prepared for a spirited discussion.

Until then,


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Printable Version

Here's a link to a printable version of the posting:

Print it out and bring a copy to La Posada tomorrow. See you then!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Instructions and Directions for Class on Metropolitan Fantasies

Our September 19 class will meet at La Posada restaurant at the usual time. Everyone agreed to contribute $5.00 to our initial tapas fund. I will be presenting a movie at the Centro de Estudiantes at 6:00 pm sharp and then heading over, so if anyone needs a ride, meet me at the lobby of the Centro de Estudiantes. See you then!

Directions to La Posada from Colegio:

  1. Exit from the Colegio's main gates and turn left onto Rt. 2 (headed south).
  2. Take the first exit to the right, onto Mendez Vigo.
  3. La Posada is immediately after the BBVA bank, on the right. Park on the street.

Study Questions:
Since this is a relatively brief book, I am not going to subdivide the questions into groups: you should all think about and formulate your own answers the following questions. These questions are designed to direct your thoughts in particular directions on Linda's book of poems, but they are not meant to be the only topics of discussion. Feel free to ask your own questions to Linda, myself, or the class.
  • What contexts that we have studied thus far can help us approach and interpret Linda's poems?
  • The book is structured into several different sections, with titles, images, and other means arranging the poems.
    • Identify each section and describe its rationale for organizing the poems within.
    • How do the individual poems fit within each section?
    • How do the poems work together within each section to create a larger meaning or context.
    • How do the sections help shape the overall book?
  • If you were interpreting the whole book of poems, what would you say Linda Rodriguez was trying to achieve with it?
  • How are Linda's more recent poems (included below) similar or different from the poems in Metropolitan Fantasies?
  • Judging from the poems you've read, how would you describe Linda's poetics?

Additional Readings:
Linda Rodriguez e-mailed me two of her more recent poems, so you can read it vis-a-vis her work in Metropolitan Fantasies.



I fear their bony feet,

talons cemented round sticks,

slowly they bench their days and nights out,

through steely bars and icy walls gawking at children like me.

I fear their colors of slapdash,

their feathers, green and blue and orange,

birds in parks and places like Busch Gardens,

birds that stand to have snapshots taken on children’s shoulders.

I fear their blunt tongues and beaks,

biting into me as they balance their bodies

on my fleshy forearm for a moment that will last decades

in the yawning caverns and unforgiving pages of childhood summers.

10:00 pm , July27, 2007, ACA, Linda M. Rodríguez



Their bony feet,

their talons round sticks,

slowly benching days and nights,

through steely bars and icy walls,

dreamy souls and innocent hearts

they gawk and spy

and seem to smile at children like you.

Their slapdash colors,

green and blue

and purple feathers,

birds in parks

and birds in gardens,

talons dug deep into children’s arms

they gladly pose for a snapshot with you.

Their blunt tongues

and beaks that bite,

and deadly gold eyes,

their bodies balanced on your flesh,

half-words screeched into children’s ears,

these are moments that fall into yawning caverns

and the unforgiving pages of childhood summers.


Having Your Snapshot Taken with Birds

Bony feet, talons round sticks,

slapdash colors, green and blue,

slowly benching days and nights,

steely bars, smiles like ice,

dreamy souls and guiltless hearts

birds in parks, birds that gawk,

birds that spy on children like you.

Blunt tongues, beaks that bite,

deadly feathers, fiendish gold eyes,

bodies balanced on your flesh,

talons dug deep, posing for you,

half-words screeched into a baby’s ears,

moments falling into yawning caverns,

unforgiving pages of childhood summers.

The Coconut Man

Being the coconut man is not a job for me

because he’s the man with the machete,

he’s the one that eyes you up when you say,

Un coco, por favor.” And if he likes you

he picks up a young one for you,

nice and cold from the industrial size

horizontal fridge, but if you don’t say please

or smile not quite right at him, he’ll pick out

an old one for you, chilled, perhaps but no good.

Old coconuts look fine on the outside, but

in the inside, huh, they are lots of trouble.

Coconuts know all the moves, when to flower

and when to fall, when to fill with water

and when to dry out, when to stay home

or simply ship out, when to line themselves with

a tender jelly flesh, and when to become hard,

good only for cooking and tourists in hotels.

And the man knows this, so be nice and cool

to the coconut man, and when he picks up

that machete, show some respect, move to one side

or the other, because with his strong grip

and one splashy whack the coconut gives way

but not before he has cut off from one side of the husk

a nice baby spoon for you, “una cuchara,” I used to

say to my father, and he would hold the coconut for me

as I spooned out the icy, see-through flesh,

ice cream,” he would call it, and I would sweep it up

feeling the unevenness of the improvised instrument,

thinking how smart was my coconut man.

And when we had drunk every single drop of its water

and had spooned all of its playful flesh into my mouth,

savoring my way through to its inner core,

then it was time to gather up and dump the remains

which always fell heavy into the metal cans outside.

August 5, 2007

11pm, ACA


Monday, September 10, 2007

English 6058: Beyond the Anthology: Poetry and Its Contexts

Essay #1 Assignment Sheet

Description and Goals

The purpose of this essay is to employ the contexts we have discussed-- theory, nationality, period, poetics, and form-- to inform the analysis, interpretation, and or teaching of a poem or a small group of related or similar poems. In order to put the theory and research into practice, you have three options to fulfill this assignment:
  1. Write an essay in which you analyze and interpret a poem (or small group of poems), informed by the contexts specified above. Your essay's thesis should be an interpretation of the poem(s) supported by analysis of its textual elements as informed by research into the contexts relevant to the poem and it should employ a clear theoretical perspective.
  2. Write an essay about how to teach a poem (or small group of poems) employing the contexts specified above, and informed by a clear theoretical perspective. You must specify what population you wish to teach the poem(s) to as well as having clear educational goals. Based on this, your thesis should state the contexts you consider would be most relevant to achieve your educational objective with that target audience. Prepare a small unit of lesson plans (about 3) as an example of how you would teach the poem(s).
  3. Write an essay about how the contexts specified above can lead to different interpretations of a poem (or small group of poems) and how the decision to take into account one, some, or all contexts can be theoretically motivated to produce specific interpretations and/or educational outcomes. Your essay's thesis should make a case for what you consider to be the most relevant context(s) for the the analysis, interpretation, and/or teaching of the poem(s).


  1. You may choose any poem or group of poems you wish. As a matter of fact, I would recommend for those who teach and wish to write about teaching a poem to select a poem from their textbooks (probably an anthology) and discuss the theory and contexts it employs to package the poetry for reading, appreciation, and/or teaching as well as what other contexts can (and perhaps should) supplement the book. Keep it relevant. On the other hand, feel free to write about a favorite poem of yours, and seek to enhance the pleasures of the text through its contexts.
  2. The essay should not take a checklist approach to all the contexts. You should consider all of the contexts as part of your preparation for writing this essay, but must ultimately make decisions as to what you want to prove (your thesis statement), and really focus on the contexts relevant to it. As part of your discussion, you should have a brief section in your essay about the contexts you didn't find relevant to your approach.
  3. Your essay should be informed by research and literary theory. The quality of the research will be a factor in the evaluation, so I encourage you to use peer-refereed journals in your research. As far as theory is concerned, you don't need to align yourself with a specific theoretical perspective-- you can mix and match, if you are so inclined-- but you should be up front as to what your theoretical inclinations are. I recommend you write a statement of your theoretical position before you write your essay to guide your research and thought about the poem(s), and incorporate a version of this into your theoretical discussion that should be part of the essay.
  4. The essay should be approximately 1500-2000 words in length (6-8 pages), including lesson plans or supplementary materials. It should be formatted and documented in impeccable MLA Format (here's a good online resource, if you don't own a copy of the MLA Handbook:
  5. Proposal: E-mail me a brief description of what you plan to do for this essay. Specify the option you chose, the poem(s) you chose (if you chose a small group of poems, explain the rationale for the selection and/or grouping), and provide a tentative thesis. This is due by Wednesday, September 5. It's okay to change your topic, poem(s) and/or thesis after that-- your proposal is not cast in stone-- but let me know of radical departures from the proposal.
  6. The essay is due on September 12. Turn in a printed version at the beginning of class.


Your essay will be evaluated holistically, taking into consideration the following criteria:
  • Fulfillment of the assignment
  • Engagement with the poem(s)
  • Use of relevant contexts
  • Quality of the research
  • Logical development of the argument
  • Sentence structure, grammar, usage, and mechanics
Your essay will receive a letter grade, numerically interpretable on a 4-point scale. No revisions will be allowed, so please seek help before the essay is due, if needed.

Sunday, September 9, 2007



I have not received proposals from everyone, and must remind those that haven't yet sent that e-mail to do so ASAP. This is not optional: it is a requirement of the assignment.

I was thinking that as the deadline approaches for both Essay #1 and the presentations next class, things must be getting busier and more difficult to complete simultaneously. Since I don't want the quality of the essays or the presentations to suffer, I am extending the deadline for Essay #1 to Friday, September 13 by 4:00 pm at the English Department.

See you on Wednesday.