"Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror"
This poem is lovely, yet horribly irritating. Be it this self conceited anger towards not his accounted success, but rather his success in my own eyes. I consider my style of poetry to be lack-luster and filled with pretentious notes and chords of angst, though, I have continuously heard otherwise. I will attempt to see this poem in the good light others see mine, but again, I will admittedly throw my bias into the mix without warning.
There are two defining features of a convex mirror as opposed to a standard flat mirror. One, of course, is that the reflection is distorted rather that providing a replication of the two-dimensionality of that which is reflected. The other important feature of the convex shape is that anyone standing at an angle where they can see the reflection of someone else will also be able to be seen by that person. Thus, the title of the poem in particular, and the bulk of the rest of the poems making up the collection present an overriding theme in which the poet is examining issues of his own identity from his own perspective, but in a way that brings the reader into the interpretative process since there is no angle the verse can be read from which doesn’t offer a glimpse at the distorted image of the poet’s own reflection. And, of course, since any interpretation of meaning says as much about the interpreter as the world being interpreted, the reader is also looking at a distorted reflection of himself/herself--which is kind of f**ked up.
This poem is an analysis of a painting called “Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror” By Parmigiano in 1524. It explores why it is a wonderful painting that lacks only one thing; the eyes have no personality whatsoever. To him, they are dead, bleak, meaningless. And in a painting, the eyes are the key to the soul, the very essence of the painting. In this idea he explores the parallel of humanity and the individual comparative to the eyes. Along with this of course is his view of the quality of the work in clearly extensive detail seen by the length of the book. A painting, especially a self portrait, goes in depth describing the confidence of the painter in his style of creation, pose, and expression. It's also a way of seeing the reflection of the painter himslef. But to Ashbery he cannot help but make everything mean more than it really is, at least to myself, in the name of self-gratification. It is a painful thing to read, beautiful in wording or not.
It is quite a beautiful poem, worthy of praise, even with its moments of philosophical intrigue when discussing the soul and human nature. I admire his thought behind it, to endure with something he loves to the point of nigh insanity. It earns respect but also disgust for something so simple and barely dimensional outside of first impression.
"In the midst of the worst" -Elisavietta Ritchie
Quick deaths of anonymous thousands,
slow dying of five old lovers and friends
gone too far for my help.
I brush one white angora cat
strayed from an inhospitable barn
somewhere up the road,
pick new lettuce, one tiny leaf at a time,
for one lover, still alive,
cherish whatever I have.
“In the Midst of the Worst” is the Elisavietta Ritchie poem that I have chosen to annotate this month. Just like most of Ritchie’s works, the meaning is not easy to grasp or understand right away, and I feel that many different readers could have many different views on what the work may mean. The poem is centered around death in my opinion, as most of Ritchie’s works seem to be solemn and give a reader a sense of pain as she describes a tough time or situation in her life.
At the beginning of the poem, Ritchie describes both the “quick deaths of anonymous thousands” as well as the “slow dying of five old lovers and friends”. In my opinion, this is Ritchie looking back on her life and the people she has lost. I agree with her statement--yes we are often sad to hear about the deaths of people we don’t know, they definitely impact us much less than those of people we love and admire. Even when many people die in violent ways, we don’t feel it as much as a singular death of someone very close to us. This seems selfish or uncaring, but in my opinion, it is simply human nature. She speaks of “old lovers”, at the beginning of the poem, signaling that the work may focus on lost love. She says these friends and lovers are “gone too far for my help”, meaning that they are not literally dead, just dead to her. Either way, that often feels even more painful than a death. On the same note, losing a partner or friend that is still alive can be more painful than thousands of anonymous deaths, as we still mourn the once close companion. From personal experience, growing apart from a once close friend can be harder than death, as you want to speak to that person and have to encounter them daily along with it.
“I brush one white angora cat”, says Ritchie, “strayed from an inhospitable barn somewhere up the road,”. I am confused by this line of the poem. I am not sure if the cat helps her forget about the people she lost, or if it has some deeper, symbolic meaning. Perhaps, the part about the 'inhospitable barn' and the straying cat ties back into the theme of losing loved ones, or loss in general. Maybe when those people left her, they felt they were leaving an 'inhospitable barn', be it they were not getting along. If actual death is what she means, maybe life was the barn and they have gone on to somewhere better. Finally, she speaks of picking lettuce, “one small leaf at a time”, I feel that this lettuce is for the cat, or a child she had with one of the five letters. Maybe she picks the small pieces slowly to distract herself from the pain for awhile.
Blog #2 “milk and honey”
what terrifies me most is how we foam at the mouth with envy when others succeed but sigh in relief when they are failing
our struggle to celebrate each other is what’s proven most difficult in being human
As a society, we are so focused on being more talented and successful and beautiful than everyone else around us. Pure jealousy and envy stems from someone else’s success. Scrolling through social media and thinking to yourself “I wish I was that pretty,” or “I want to be that skinny.” Listening to people boast about their good grades and how popular they are and how many parties they go to. We shouldn’t be so focused on wishing and wanting what others have. Work hard and dedicate yourself to what you love and what you want to be as a person. Stop putting yourself down just because you don’t have what everyone else has. Stop following the new trend. Be yourself. Be unique. Stand out from the crowd. Stop the jealousy and hatred and celebrate the successes of others. Be pleased for someone else. Lift up the veil of negativity. Allow yourself to be satisfied with what you have and don’t have because being your best you is what truly matters. So stop staring at your phone and scrolling through everyone else’s lives, get up off your ass, and do something that makes you happy.