World Poetry Day: four of my favorites

I admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of poetry. I suppose I blame this on years and years of English teachers making me annotate every little word and phrase of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney until the “one definite meaning” is discovered, which turned me off to the medium. Poetry is something I’ve always felt can be interpreted differently depending on the reader. Like any other form of art, there isn’t a definite right or wrong interpretation. But lately I’ve been trying to read more poems, and in honor of World Poetry Day, here are some of my favorites and what they mean to me:

“(love song, with two goldfish)” by Grace Chua

I complain about the poetry units I was put through in high school (if I had to read one more Seamus Heaney poem about a bog I was going to scream), but I actually have IB English to thank for this discovery. I first read “(love song, with two goldfish)” senior year in IB English class. We were given a poem we had never seen before at the beginning of class and had the whole hour to annotate and write a paper about it — practice for the big scary IB test at the end of the year.

I loved this poem immediately. Those who know me know I’m a sucker for love, and the male’s devotion to the female is just so adorable — “He would take her to the ocean, they could count the waves. There, in the submarine silence, they would share their deepest secrets. Dive for pearls like stars.”

I could say so much about this poem. The use of parentheses as a metaphor for a fishbowl. The humor in the fish references and water imagery. The whimsy (even though I personally find the ending really sad, it’s still cutesy and fun overall).

The main thing I can relate to is the idea of wanting more out of life — “a life beyond the (bowl).”

Charlie’s poem for Patrick in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky

I know I’ve written about this poem in another blog post before, but it’s just so devastating and I love it. The first time I read it I cried. The poem ends in the author’s suicide, and, to me, it’s about the loss of innocence that comes with growing up.

Each stanza is different stage in life, from childhood to around high school or college. In the first stanza everything is simple and happy — his parents kissed a lot, the girl around the corner sent him a Valentine with x’s (and, being a little kid, he had to ask his dad what the x’s meant), and his father always tucked him into bed at night.

By the end of the poem, his mother and father “never kissed/or even talked,” the girl around the corner wore too much makeup but he kissed her anyway “because that was the thing to do,” and at 3 a.m. he tucked himself into bed.

I’m still not sure how to put into words why I love this poem. I just find it, while dark and terribly depressing, truthful. To me, it captures the confusion of growing up and the world not being as simple as it was in previous years. As you grow up and learn more and become more observant about the world around you, it’s hard not to become critical and feel alone and wonder what it’s all about: “he tried another poem/And he called it “Absolutely Nothing”/Because that’s what it was really all about…”

“Elegies 2.15: Love song for Cynthia” by Propertius

Okay, so I admit I just read this poem for the first time two days ago for my Age of Augustus class, but I love it. (I also apologize for the absence of a link. I couldn’t find the same translation from my textbook online in my brief Google search).

The poem is, as you could probably guess from the title, a love song to Propertius’s elegiac puella (aka his strong/bossy/sometimes mean girlfriend, who doesn’t fit the norms expected of a typical classical Roman woman). Their love is often described as a “maddening enslavement,” and is full of turmoil and high emotions, with Cynthia almost always hurting Propertius.

However, this particular poem is one of the happier ones, of Propertius worshipping Cynthia — the opening line is “I’m the luckiest man alive! It was a night lit up with ecstasy.”

The whole poem focuses on an erotic night Cynthia. Again, I’m a sucker for love (even though Propertius and Cynthia’s affair is far from healthy), and this particular poem is filled with lines that get me right in the feels. “There is no pleasure if you close your eyes when making love, and blindly/Thrash around; did you not know, it is the eyes that lead the way to love.” “Her’s I shall be in life, in death I shall remain her love.” “My Cynthia, while yet bright are the lights of life, do not desert life’s joys/If every kiss you have you give to me, yet will it not suffice.” And my personal favorite line: “The man has lost his wits who seeks an end to love’s insanity.”

I’m really digging Propertius. He has whole books of Elegies filled with poems dedicated to his love for Cynthia. We were discussing him in class the other day and the whole idea behind his poems is that, because Mars and Venus are the gods Rome is said to be descended from, love is just as vital to Roman life as war, if not more so.

I also find it amazing that something written in the 1st century BCE can still be so relatable in the present-day.

“To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra 

Is this cheating? This is technically a song, but, really, I’ve always thought about songs as a form of poetry. I love listening to songs and reading the lyrics. To me, lyrics are the most important thing about a song, more so than the music. Some of my favorite lyrics come from Lorde, The Head and The Heart (don’t even get me started on their song “Gone,” it’s utterly perfect), and Florence + the Machine (her new song “What Kind of Man” understands everything about my life).

But, as I’ve said before, “To Build a Home” holds a special place in my heart. Largely because it was introduced to me by my then-new, now best friend during a tumultuous time in my life. I just think it’s a really beautiful song with gorgeous lyrics, and it always makes me think of my friends and I stargazing, night swimming, making s’mores, having bonfires, etc.

“I climbed the tree to see the world/When the gusts came around to blow me down/Held on as tightly as you held onto me.” Seriously, I need a tattoo of those lyrics. You can listen to the song here.

Meet Me in Montauk

Today is the 11th anniversary of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It’s a film that’s very special to me for a number of reasons.

eternal sunshine

I didn’t see “Eternal Sunshine” until my senior year of high school, almost exactly two years ago. I’ve probably watched it a hundred times since, and it’s become very near and dear to my heart. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” poster hanging in my room. I have an “Eternal Sunshine” phone case. If you know me, I’ve almost definitely made you watch the movie with me at least once.

I have always been a fan of Jim Carrey. I grew up watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Ace Ventura,” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” When I got older, I loved “Yes Man,” “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” and “Horton Hears a Who,” all of which left me in stitches. I had never seen him in a serious role before, and I was captivated by his role as reserved, shy Joel Barish.

Instantly, I found myself relating to Joel. I can be quiet and introverted and, above all, awkward. I doodle in journals on a daily basis. I’m a romantic. I tend to let people have more power over me than they should. I often don’t know what to say. I, like Joel, would have run away from Clementine at the beach and been too afraid to walk out onto the frozen lake.

But I could also see myself in Clementine (a perfect as always Kate Winslet). Granted, I’m not spontaneous and I don’t dye my hair “Blue Ruin,” but she’s more than the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s irritable and erratic and, in her own words, “just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for (her) own peace of mind.”

The thing I love about “Eternal Sunshine” is how truthful it is. Every time I watch it, I learn something new about it and about myself/relationships/love:

You can try as hard as you can to make a relationship work, but sometimes…it just won’t. There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Everybody has flaws, everybody has baggage. You’re not going to be completely happy all the time. Love isn’t easy, and “Eternal Sunshine” shows all of its complexities.

You can’t force a connection. When Patrick uses Joel’s possessions and words to make Clementine fall in love with him, it’s not right — the connection isn’t there. Clementine feels like something’s wrong. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, and you have to accept that.

That being said, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. When Clementine and Joel erase each other from their memories, they end up finding each other again.

Past experiences, even the painful ones, make you who you are. If you erase all the memories of people who ever did you wrong, you won’t grow. We love who we love, and sometimes we love the wrong person. The good and the bad shape us, and (hopefully) we learn from the hurt. It sucks at the time, but going through rough times only benefits us in the future.

The first time I saw this movie, I was in the midst of my very first breakup and I had no idea what was going on. This movie made me feel so much less alone. Every time I’m going through hard times and boys are being stupid, “Eternal Sunshine” will always be there for me. The film’s universal feelings of love, loss, and loneliness are like a giant hug around your heart.

So happy birthday, “Eternal Sunshine.” Thank you for impacting my life.

Review: ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.

That’s the premise behind “The Fault in Our Stars.” Based off the acclaimed and universally-obsessed-over book by John Green, “The Fault in Our Stars” is more than another teen love drama. It’s a story about cancer, love, and pain that demands to be felt.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl who has been battling cancer since she was diagnosed at 13. She has to breathe from a tube and haul an oxygen tank everywhere she goes, as using stairs and standing for too long make her short of breath.

After her parents suspect Hazel of being depressed, they make her go to a support group for kids with cancer. It is here where Hazel meets Augustus “Gus” Waters (Ansel Elgort), an 18-year-old boy in remission. The two get to talking, sparks fly, and, despite Hazel’s hesitance about hurting Gus with her inevitable death, the two fall madly in love.

The genius of “The Fault in Our Stars,” lies with its risk to be funny while telling a sad story. You’ll laugh at the banter between Gus and Hazel, the goofy persona of fellow cancer victim Isaac (Nat Wolff), and the way the characters poke fun at their disease (as Gus says to Hazel’s father, “I didn’t cut this guy off for the hell of it,” motioning to his amputated leg he lost to his cancer).

A Fault In Our Stars

Following up amazing performances in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now, Woodley is never better. As Hazel Grace, she is witty, sweet, and heartbreaking. You won’t be able to take your eyes off her. Opposite her Divergent co-star Elgort, the two are a match made in heaven.

“The Fault in Our Stars” isn’t just another cancer movie comprised of sad scenes and cliché. The story is lively, the characters bright, and the love poignant. The soundtrack, featuring songs from Ed Sheeran, M83, and Kodaline among others, breathes life and beauty into the film.

But, you must remember, this is a cancer movie — it’s not all laughs.

The audible squeals, giggles and applause from the audience slowly turn into suffocating silence and broken cries of “why?” and “no!” By the film’s conclusion you will find yourself bawling into your popcorn (or, in the my case, smuggled-in chocolates), surrounded by loud sobbing and nose-blowing noises from the packed theater. You will leave feeling broken but complete at the same time.

It lives up to its hype.

One Mizzou: Love always wins

Today love proved it was stronger than hate. Today I joined over approximately 2,000 other students to build a human wall, blocking the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest against Michael Sam, the former Mizzou defensive end who announced Sunday that he is gay.

The event, Stand With Sam, was organized on Facebook this week, with nearly 5,000 attendees. The plan: make a human wall, arm and arm, wearing black and gold, to peacefully protest Westboro’s “preachings” of hate.

Westboro Baptist Church. This “church” is based out of Kansas and is known nationwide for its extremist, intolerant beliefs. They travel around the country protesting anything they deem “sinful,” particularly homosexuality. (They also frequently protest the funerals of fallen soldiers because they believe God is punishing the United States).

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

This is what I don’t understand: where does all the hate come from? Why are people so full of hatred? What makes Westboro travel hours out of their way just to wave signs saying “Death Penalty 4 Fags?” Why do people try to impose their own personal views onto others?

Sometimes the world can be an ugly place, especially the people in it.

But today, the world is beautiful. And it was made that way by those who came out to support Michael Sam. People passed out “Stand with Sam” buttons, wore shirts that read “We’re All Como Sexual,” and held up signs with “I Love You” written on them. They stood in 27 degree weather for two hours, holding the wall strong. They put their arms around one another and sang the alma mater. They chanted M-I-Z Z-O-U and M-I-Z S-A-M. They turned their backs on the Westboro picketing.

Thousands of students came out to support Michael Sam. Photo courtesy
Thousands of students came out to support Michael Sam. Photo courtesy
One Mizzou. Photo courtesy
One Mizzou. Photo courtesy
Photo courtest
Photo courtesy

Later this afternoon after Westboro left and the wall disbanded, this appeared on the group’s Twitter:

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Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

Today I was so incredibly proud of my school and this town. No matter what your beliefs are, Mizzou supports their own. We are a family. We are one. And no matter how much hate exists or how strong that hate is, love will always triumph.

Welcome to Missouri, the “Snow-Me” State

“Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin and they end with no lasting memory made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life.” February 4th was a Tuesday.

Ever since I visited Mizzou during Summer Welcome, I have been eagerly anticipating the day I get to see the the campus covered in a blanket of snow. Jesse Hall, the columns, Memorial Union, everything. Mizzou amazes me with its beauty each and every day, and I could only imagine how gorgeous it would be once snow finally fell.

Today was the day I’ve been looking forward to all these months.

Today I woke up to find CoMo transformed into a winter wonderland. Continuous flurries fell from the sky, accumulating into around five inches of snow. It was cold, of course, but not windy, making the weather bearable. A perfect day to go outside.

Snow day at the Francis Quadrangle and the iconic columns.

The Hatch 5 family bundled up and braved the snow, trekking across campus and making our way to the Francis Quadrangle, occasionally stopping to pelt each other with poorly made snowballs. It was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

Jesse Hall, our makeshift hill.

Winter has always been my favorite season, for a variety of reasons- the Holiday season/music/cheer, wearing cozy sweaters and sweatshirts, the warmth of fire places, and, above all, snow. I could spend hours sitting on a windowsill watching the snowfall and drinking hot chocolate. It makes everything so much more beautiful and serene.

Today was my very first college snow day, and it was a day that will stay with me for years to come.

My dear, dear roomie.
My dear, dear roomie.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve had a rough start to the semester. I’ve been feeling sad and alone and more than a little angry, and I’ve been exhausting myself by trying to hide it. This day was exactly what I needed- a day of friends and fun in the snow, sledding down the steps of Jesse Hall (dangerous and terrifying but very fun nonetheless), throwing snowballs, making snow angels, watching the boys slide around playing football, and taking way too many pictures.

It’s crazy how one blissfully perfect day can cancel out two weeks of not-so-great days. Today, the problems that have been plaguing me for the past couple of weeks didn’t exist. Nothing mattered this afternoon. I was there, in the moment, with some of the people I love most. I think this is what Stephen Chbosky was talking about when he wrote The Perks of Being A Wallflower– today, I felt infinite.

And with another snow day called for tomorrow, I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Snow Day group picture
Photo courtesy

Today was awesome. Life is awesome. I love my friends. I am so lucky. Hatch 5 forever.