"People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats” - Leonora Carrington

April IO Brainstorm

Beowulf (work in translation):

  • Glorify violence/desensitized to violence
  • Power & treasure
    • Comitatus (brotherhood, loyalty, comradery, belonging)
  • Life and death (a “Tony Stark” -ish story: Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm off, faces the consequences, is king and powerful and basks in the glory of his success, and then he dies, because man is mortal)
    • Epic hero’s story resonates with forces of
      • Life and death
      • Harmony and chaos
      • “good” and “evil”
      • Civilization and wasteland
      • Light and darkness
  • Motives, portrayal, and power of Grendel’s mother (would be better explored in an IO with Grendel)

Richard Wilbur (poetry):

  • Beowulf (war, glory, heroism)
  • A Fable (aggression/violence, villains)
  • Boy At The Window (empathy, misunderstanding)
  • The Writer (a father’s love for his daughter, life/death/danger in the world)
  • Juggler (weight of the world)
  • Advice to a Prophet (humans destroying the earth, loss of biodiversity)
  • The Death of a Toad (life/death, heroism)

Potential Global Issues:

  • The impact of war on “heroes”
    • Could look at PTSD for soldiers (literal war)
    • Could look at the heroes of less literal wars (civil rights activists, healthcare workers, survivors) and what kind of pressure/impact falls on the shoulders of these leaders
  • How the disparity between those with power and those without power affects [children/progress as a society/something else?] OR, the basic “power corrupts those who wield it” / “absolute power (reveals) absolutely”
    • People who have succeeded financially (top 1% kind of focus) vs. people living in poverty
    • People who benefit from society’s privileges vs. minorities
  • Environmental sustainability (ex: do technological advancements bring us closer to or farther from progress?)
  • The portrayal of death through customs/art/literature
    • Not really sure what I’m asking here, but I’d like to explore a global issue related to life/death and how an individual or community’s understanding of death impacts their approach to life–this idea comes up in both Richard Wilbur’s poetry and Beowulf

How to Make Toast


Art as a Starting Point

First I Saw The Mug

This mug is really very shiny. First observations aren’t always the most profound, but hey. We try. Ebony stripes expand from one corner like the tip of a highlighter extrapolated to a full line. Rounded lines on the left stack together like the stripes of a beehive, chopped in half. The thick and thin details wind around the beehive remnants and snake along the bottom border. The fat and skinny lines make up the Hollywood letters; “Vintage Hollywood” it says.

Cold to touch. Not burning, like ice, but cool like porcelain. Warning: do not drop. Holding this mug, I feel not just the smooth, glossy surface but also sense the potential gravitational energy. Shatter, fall, slip. And it smells like absolutely nothing–except the coolness. Perhaps cold is a smell, or perhaps my face was pressed too close against the mug.

I try to listen to a mug, but what is there to hear? The tapping of my nail against this shell. I can make sound with it, but what is the sound of a mug on its own? Do things only exist when they act or are acted upon? They do, I think. They are silent things, but silent things still exist.

I gently lift this mug and set it back at the top of my desk. The muted ka-thump of my mug returning to its position. Gallantly it stands there, dutifully holding my pens. I will not be licking my mug today, so please do not ask me what it tastes like. Probably as bland as my writing. All I can taste now is the tangy berry tea lingering on my tongue. And now I feel I have aptly thanked my mug for serving me these four years with no recognition until now. A subservient, valiant, and intricate mug, I would be happy to recommend it to any worthy owner. Alas, I do not think I could now part with it.

The Breath of Defeat

The whole education system is backward. And students are egocentric.

I almost told my teacher yesterday that I didn’t understand problem 10. It was cold in the classroom, and my head ached, the breath of defeat on the verge of escaping my chest. As linear pathways to nonlinear solutions evaded my grasp, I was close to capitulating. Like Denmark on the ninth of April. Here I was, ready to give in. Give up. What else could I give? But, of course… resistance… The revolutionaries line along the rusty red barricade one more time, one day more. The steel blue sky wide and open above them: the backdrop of their freedom. A freedom that can be mine, too. So I continued my search for a way out that would shift all blame from me.

I almost told my teacher yesterday that I didn’t understand problem 10. But this was simply not true. I am a complex being of 3.2 billion base pairs on 30,000 genes that code for 78 organs and a whole lot of nonsense when I try to think deep thoughts. My brother would be more likely to describe me as less than 5 foot 3, but… chacun voit midi à sa porte (I wish I spoke French).

I almost told my teacher yesterday that I didn’t understand problem 10. But this was simply not true. Problem 10 didn’t understand me. My inner monologue continued as I contemplated Problem 10’s misleading language, restrictive domain, and condescending tone. The tension: increasing. The emotion: exasperated. The atmosphere: impending doom (or thereabouts). The meaning: I am (neither) a spectator of (nor a performer for) this math worksheet. I may not understand it, but that is just one view. To me, that day, I was the thing misunderstood.

The whole education system is backward. And students are egocentric.

P.S. So is Grendel

March 8 – People Think I Am

People think I am a freshman, but really I am a 16-year-old with the attention span of a 3-year-old, the knee-scrapes of a 10-year-old, the shoe size of a 12-year-old, and the same sense of humor as my dad. What does age really mean? I used to think maturity correlated directly with age, and was promptly disillusioned. I still believed age was comparable with wisdom or life experience, but this, too, I have come to question.  Neither often nor deeply do I question it, but I do question it. So many adults forget or never learn the civility and respect with which we are obligated to give to each other. Too many children have had to replace their childhood with surviving brutality or abuse, forced to accept the world they have been left with. So now I think that age doesn’t mean much other than the number. Like other things in life, age may affect our circumstances or position, but it does not affect our deeper person.


People think I am a high school student, but really I am a stress bunny. Loviise concurs: “This is true!”

People think I am a rule follower, but really I lack the creativity to do otherwise.

People think I am smart, but really my VPN just isn’t working today. Netflix and Tik Tok have claimed the hours of many teens, but they have yet to assert ownership over mine.

People think I am a teacher’s pet, but really I am nobody’s fool.

People think I am too excited about everything, but really I… yes, I am exactly that. People were right this time.

People assume I am thinking, but really I am forgetting. You see, a thought forgot(ten) is no longer a thought. Hmm. Rhym(ing) is sublime until it messes with sentences. What was I saying? Ah, yes… oh. Point proved.

People think I am fearless in the outdoors, but really I am oblivious to the blatant threats to my safety. Unless my dad points them out. In which case, I will come down from the 40-foot cliff once I can hear his shouting. This typically occurs after I finish the chapter I am on.

People think I am extroverted, but really I am lonely. Oh, forget that. I’m not lonely, I just love talking with people. There we go.

People simply think too much, apparently, because this prompt has not nearly been exhausted and I must conclude. Thank you.

TJ – Things I Know To Be True – Initial Responding to Playtext

After my first reading of this play, I decided to make a mood board to explore my more subconscious reactions to the text. I found this more difficult to do than with Woyzeck because Things I Know To Be True is more about relationships and characters rather than images or visual motifs. Still, I wanted to see what I would find. Below is my mood board:

This wasn’t the exact ‘mood’ I wanted to convey with the images–the mood board suggests that the play is bright and happy. Personally, I think this was less of an artistic exhibition mood board and more of a mind mapping motif board. I came across (visual) ideas that I wanted to hold onto for later. Of course, roses was one thing–I especially wanted to look at the idea of thorns being underneath the rose petals, hidden from view. This is similar to how the roses of a happy family that Fran and Bob strived for conceal the emotional thorns that prick deep within. These thorns include the verbally abusive relationship between Fran and Pip, the betrayal of Ben’s theft and drug use, Rosie’s disillusionment with the world, Bob and particularly Fran’s lack of acceptance and love for Mia, tension in Fran and Bob’s marriage… several thorns are revealed as the text progresses. I also was struck by the photograph of the girl with the rose crown–to me, this was Rosie. She is of course an adult now, and she tried to “grow up” (22) by traveling the world. Still, we see the story through her eyes (in a way) because we discover the thorns in the bushes as she herself does. Halfway through the play, Mark tells her that she “need[s] to grow up […] to decide who [she] is and get on with it” (54). Rosie begins the play and her return home as …well, more mature than a child, but still naive to an extent. She has experienced some disappointment prior to her return (Emmanuel) but when it comes to how she views her family, she trusts and believes in the roses. So, as the seasons change and roses begin to die, the falling petals reveal to her the thorns.

Something else: when imagining the family’s garden and flowerbeds, I thought also of birds, birdhouses, and eventually came to cages. This isn’t mentioned in the text, but the idea of cages resonated in me when I reflected on the message and motifs in Things I Know To Be True. They are beautiful cages–but they are still cages. I feel that in some way, each of the characters is trapped–the four children feel tied to home, until they finally have the courage to leave (Rosie included). Most especially, however, I thought of Fran as trapped. She talks about her escape money, which she doesn’t use, but the only reason is because she feels she couldn’t leave her children. I believe it is because she sometimes feels trapped in the cage of their home that she has such difficult relationships with her children. This also connected to the barred windows on the apartment building (the two images in the upper right corner are from when I was thinking about Mia’s crowded flat in Sydney).

I also liked the idea of a bird in a garden, because the images made me think of a bird flying in to listen to the members of a household through an open window. I know this is starting to sound a bit dumb now… but that’s what it made me think of. The play is structured in a way that we as readers/audience members are invited to look into the family’s struggles, arguments, efforts, dysfunctionality, beauty, and pain.

One other visual symbol I noticed from the mood board: I think that the watch Mark gives to Rosie before leaving is significant in more ways than one. It is a gift for Rosie and a burden for Mark (in a way). The importance of it being a watch, however, could also lead to some interesting directions: taking time into your own hands, taking charge of time and fate, now it is time to be true to herself, and time to say goodbye and move forward. This was just one of my initial impressions, but I think it could be useful in further analysis of the text as well as possibilities for taking the play from paper to stage.

Lastly, here is what I thought about the writing style (copied from my theatre inventory):

I liked that characters sometimes shared or finished each other’s lines. Often, the lines were narration or a character’s recollection of an event (like “I hang up. I walk. I stumble. I fall. Not her” on page 82). I feel like the way it was written lends itself to more abstract interpretations and I can see how it would be good material for applications of physical theatre. Although the play is in a realistic setting and naturalistic style, not all of the text is the simple conversation you would expect between characters (“Where were you?” “Oh, I was in the other room”), and much of it is more a bridge between reality and imagination. Although the story was painful and heavy, I think the content drew from very real and possible situations that could cause grief to a family, so there was that sense of honesty rather than desire to simply entertain and intrigue.

Gogol: HL Essay Planning

Topic: metafiction and surrealism

Work chosen: “The Nose” and “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol


  • Anthropomorphic nose = fantastic/uncanny/grotesque
    • Freud’s essay on the uncanny, marvelous, and fantastic (the familiar made strange, or familiarity that was suppressed being revealed)
  • Improper, nonsense, improbable, inconceivable, incomprehensible (Nose, 77-78)
    • Draws attention to how this piece of literature does not conform to proper literature
    • Suggests perhaps in some ways it is/could be sensical, probable, and conceivable
  • Dream-like
    • A dream is what you fear will happen (psychoanalytic lens)
    • March 25/April 7 (Gregorian vs. Julian calendar allow the possibility of this event taking place on one day)
    • Waking up to nose missing and nose returned
    • Exaggerated reality
    • Dream spelled backward in Russian
  • Narrator/speaker
    • Unreliable storytelling: “If my memory fails me not” (Overcoat)
    • Some authorial reticence… although the narrator tries to explain (but fails to do so)
    • Breaks 4th wall (the reader is complicit in believing the absurd)
  • Synecdoches (facial hair represents rank and grooming, an overcoat represents material wealth)
  • Historical context: censorship, corruption, and serfdom were forbidden topics

Potential works cited:

The Encounter

Devising from Cards (January 12 and 18)

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