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Graduation is on Saturday; the pomp and ceremony begins tomorrow. In under 48 hours we’ll all be kicked off campus and the doors locked behind us. Undergrad is over.

It’s been a weird day. I need to ramble for a bit.

Final grades came today. Mine are not good. They’re certainly not BAD - they’re simply below my usual and below what I was expecting, and in three out of four cases below what (I feel) I deserve. It’s the worst semester’s grades I’ve ever gotten. I feel indignant. Baffled.

Part of me also gets it, almost should have seen it coming, because this semester has been…off. It hasn’t been depression, I don’t want to label myself with depression and it’s nothing so bad as that, but I’ve had a persistent feeling of low-level despairing apathy coupled with random spurts of panic. Adding senior excercises and SERIOUS job hunting to a regular courseload does not a healthy stress level make. I loved my classes, I worked hard, I busted my ASS in Screenwriting…but I was extremely bothered by the knowledge that I should have been loving them MORE. Trying to eke every last drop out of this semester that I can manage.

All that eking is exhausting, let me tell you.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

But as for the grades…I’m baffled, I’m indignant, yes. Betrayed. Beating myself up. I’m not happy. I feel…sullied. The final grades I recieve - if grad school doesn’t happen, the final grades I will EVER recieve - should not collectively be the worst of my academic career. It’s not fitting. Before this semester I had a 4.0 in my Spanish major, I did NOT deserve to have that broken. I worked too damn hard in Screenwriting for that grade. I legitimately did better than this. Et cetera.

If I cared, it would be a slap in the face.

But I don’t. Or rather, it’s not that I don’t care (I do, unfortunately, hence the beating myself up), it’s just that I’ve made peace with the fact that it doesn’t matter. Or that it doesn’t matter to me. Not in the larger sense.

My GPA held; I’m still graduating cum laude (I was already slightly below magna cum laude before, so it’s a wash). I goddamn double majored. I goddamn got Distinction in English on a creative writing project, which is in my opinion higher than any other academic award the college could foist on me: they recognized me as a writer.

But I don’t need an A in a class to tell me that I can write.

And so, oddly, I feel like the grades that came today were the college’s way of saying goodbye (not nicely - a boot to the ass on the way out the door, sure). I don’t need it anymore.

I love this place, dearly. Desperately. I love my classes. I am going to sob buckets and buckets starting tomorrow. But I don’t need academia. I love academics, the people, but the institution itself is very different. Impersonal. Cutthroat. Abstract. I swam for ten years and didn’t realize until I quit how incredibly draining the constant competition and measuring up against my peers was. I have a feeling that bowing out of academia for a year or two will feel the same way.

I need to get out.

I want to go to grad school in a year or three because I need to learn and be surrounded by people who learn and keep my brain running at a higher level, but for now I’m just…done. I don’t care any more (except I do, because I’m still beating myself up, and because those B’s are just not right for reasons of justice and symbolism). It doesn’t matter.

I don’t even know.

I came to this school to swim, to major in English and possibly Spanish or Biology, to be the introvert poet under the tree. Four years later I’m sitting here with degrees in Spanish and English, not swimming, archery captain, still an introvert except NOT - my geekiness has exploded (Comics! RP! TV! Fandom!) and I have found people that I can actually interface with at all levels, talk to instead of talk at or be talked at, stop being the wallflower even in my own group of friends (this is not to say that these are all the same people, or that my groups of friends have not changed wildly and without notice. Study abroad has a way of messing with one’s social life). I have found people like me. It has paradoxically made me even more disconnected from people not like me, but that’s okay. I know what I need.

It took me the whole four years, but I feel like I’ve finally come out of the shell of social isolation that defining myself as the lone poet who sits under the tree and smells like chlorine placed on me.

I am a writer. I am an academic. I love this field of study, and this and this. I don’t need the notebook and the tree and the fancy trappings to tell me this. I don’t need grad school, and when I go to grad school it will be because I need to learn and not because I need the validation. I don’t need the diploma. I don’t need the grade. 

I feel like I’m ready to leave.

Not the place. Not the college. But the college’s institution, yes. Oh yes.

And so I’m sitting here in our half-packed room and it’s dark outside and I can almost see the so-called “suicide lights” on the trees lining the central path that runs through the college like an artery (I walk this path several times every day; I have walked this path so many times), and I’m looking at this list of B’s on my transcript and looking at the tassel on my mortarboard, and my feelings are flying all over the place. There’s I deserve better than this or I should have pushed myself harder than this. There’s this ultimately doesn’t matter. There’s betrayal and bewilderment and bemusement and there’s oh, okay, I get it, you’re done with me. 

And there’s that’s okay. I’m done with you too.




On the state of this livejournal: You'll notice I stopped updating my National Poetry Month entries a few days before the end of the month. That was when the finals crunch started; that was when my emotional state was weirdest and I wasn't writing at all and taking naps all the time and staring at blank white pages a lot. I will go back and finish the National Poetry Month entries in the next week or two. I don't want to leave them undone.

And then I will put this journal on a hiatus. End date unknown.

I interact with people very differently in real life as opposed to the internet, and this journal occupies a strange liminal space. It's neither. It's intensely awkward. There is no one who reads this journal who is not either a friend of mine in real life nor a follower on Tumblr - not a single person. It is redundant.

So I shall finish the April entries by sometime in June (oops), and then this'll go dark for a while as I house hunt and job hunt and figure my life out. It feels fitting. It's graduation, after all.

The poet under the tree, signing off.

Marianne Moore - The Fish

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Another poem that I first read in my Prosodry and Poetics class, in the unit on syllabic poetry (count the syllables!). I find the form exotic, somehow; English concerns itself with meter more than simple syllable count, which (to me) is a hallmark of foreign-language poetry. This, combined with some of the wonderfully quirky imagery (stars like pink rice grains!) is what makes me love this poem.

Sharon Olds - I Go Back to May 1937

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I love the helpless bitterness in this poem, the image of bodies coming together like flint and the parents' bodies turned into disturbing plastic dolls. I love the enjambment. I love how sharp the entire poem is.

Maurya Simon - Simon Says

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I don't have much to say about this one. It's not my usual fare. There's some fantastic language, though - "retired captains of strut!" - and the imagery is so precise and perfect that I can't help but love it.

Gustavo Pereira - Somari

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I took a Spanish Translation class two years ago. I thought it would be a fun but fairly predictable course where we simply translated things, all the time. What it was, instead, was a varied and utterly fascinating discussion course on different methods and philosophies or translation and the problems and political issues thereof. What does it do to your culture when no works in your language reach a wider audience, but you're inundated with foreign works? Can a person from a different time/culture/race/gender/background ever properly understand the writing of another? If a completely accurate translation is impossible, what can be "safely" left out, and what are the implications thereof? If you want to make a text seem familiar or bizarre for your new audience, what are some ways to do so?

And so forth.

It was probably the best class I've ever taken.

At the end of the course, we were each given a unique several-hundred-page manuscript of poetry by a contemporary Latin American poet - poetry that has not been translated into English. The professor had gotten the translation rights; she allowed us to have a crack at them, first.

I was given Pereira, and I fell in love with his "somaris" - his name for short little love poems. I'm not sure if this is my favorite somari, but it's the translation that I'm the most proud of.

Billy Collins - Japan

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Collins gets a lot of flak for writing simple, formulaic, poetry. And while I think the flak is at least partially deserved, it doesn't mean that his simple formulaic poems aren't fantastic.

Andrew Marvell - To His Coy Mistress

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This is the first poem that I ever close-read to the extent that the page became illegible with hundreds and hundreds of scribbled notes and about five different colors of highlighter (thank you, junior year highschool English teacher!). One of the more amusing notes about this poem is that it's intentionally constructed around a logical fallacy. It denies the antecedent. It uses the same invalid logic of the argument "if you're wearing a hat, you have a head; but you're not wearing a hat, therefore you don't have a head."

Charming.

It's an important poem in Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife, one of my favorite books.
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This poem is, of course, based off a true incident at the Virginia Tech shootings. Liviu Librescu was a Holocaust survivor who held the door with his body in order to give his students time to escape.

I don't think there's anything else I can say.

Gerard Manley Hopkins - The Windhover

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I am in absolute awe of Hopkins.

Hopkins - and this poem in particular - made me finally appreciate the sonnet. They're what really made me get the effect that language can have on poetry. They're what made me finally understand that poetry must be read aloud.

There's such movement in this poem. It's astounding.

Enrique Molina - Nosferatu

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I was given this poem in my one-on-one poetry class during my first trip to Buenos Aires. I don't remember the lesson. But I remember immediately falling in love with this poem - this, and a Spanish translation of Paul Celan's "Todesfuge / Fuga sobre la muerte / Death Fugue."

I desperately wanted to include "Death Fugue" in the poems I posted here last year. But I've been unable to find a satisfactory English version. The Spanish version I was given was lovely, musical, sibilant and haunting, and the heavy beats of "black milk of morning, we drink we drink" in English don't match up. English, to my ear, is insufficient. "Todesfuge" is, to me, eternally in Spanish.

Weird, I know.

If you're interested, here is the Spanish version - I don't know who the translator is.



Paul Celan - "Todesfuge / Fuga sobre la muerte"Collapse )


But enough of that. On to "Nosferatu."

The translation is my own. Apart from running the almost-final version by one of my professors, I did it myself. I'm still largely pleased with it. I wanted to preserve the gothic romance of the original, the images that don't quite make sense and in so doing contribute to the poem's sense of surreal horror. The original poem achieves this, at least in part, through ambiguous or nonstandard syntax. It's nigh impossible to duplicate this in English without overextending oneself and sounding clumsy and conceited. I did my best.

There are, of course, bits where I think it stumbles - "it's fascinating," feels clumsily vernacular; "what light that never was" is hackneyed and unambiguious compared to the original, as is "the living bate their breath like lions at your passing" (though I'm fond of the alliteration I managed there). The last line gave me serious problems - there's an "I" in the original, the prescence of the speaker, but it's too subtle and understated to translate elegantly, and the Spanish word infierno has a double-meaning of "Hell" and "inferno." I chose "Hell" for metrical purposes, but I miss the implications in the original that the inferno might be ardent, passionate, not wholly negative. 

I am inordinately pleased with "the coachman killing himself for the wind, / a ghost in a carriage of ghosts." The grammar of the original is fuzzy ("el cochero sacudido por el viento" - is the "por" supposed to mean "for" or "because of?"), but I believe I got the sense of it "right" in that it fits with the gothic romance of the poem. And it flows. 

I am happy with my translation.

I still prefer the poem in Spanish. I think of this poem in Spanish. The translation is a facsimile, as all translations are.

I stand by my work.