Poetry vs. Pathos: An Overexplanation

Poetry is great. Pathos is important. Both concepts get explained at length in high school English courses. Yet their true depths are worthy of dissection beyond exams in classrooms.

Poetry and pathos do not always go hand in hand. In fact, poetry without pathos is common. It sneaks in around every corner of our common conversations.

Poetry in this sense is the language we use to communicate feeling. Feelings surround our everyday experiences, and we daily record these entities through the brainwaves of our unreliable memories. More recently, our record-keeping has changed with the advent of a more permanent and modern technology, the over-sharing of our moment-to-moment feelings through the various webpages of our media-based identities, our digital Brave New Worlds. This newfound freedom, like all creatures surviving infancy, is wrought with challenge and consequence. In short, we now communicate far too much to too wide of an audience, and all without true depth of emotion.

To emote without true feeling is regular and innocuous (and we all do it). We whisper passion and heartache so often we forget to think if any of it is real. And then when our feelings change, we wave away the past emotions as misjudged and misconceived, an oopsy-daisy of our collective consciousness. What we used to feel we pretend we never did.

I wonder then: if feelings can change, did they ever begin in the first place? This is now off-topic, but I wonder all the same.

The point of all of this is simple and I could have said at the very top:

Poetry

without pathos

is rote, yet

pathos

without poetry,

is tragic.

Long live poetry.

xo squea

A Note About Teaching Black History

Every semester, I assign two nerve-wracking essays for my students to read. These narrative essays are penned by black authors who share their respective discomfort, anxiety, and anger they feel around police officers on a pretty regular basis. These essays are great because they are well written, on-topic for the narrative-style essays I want my own students to write, and, best of all, they discuss serious issues and ideas that currently exist in the world around them. A no-bullshit college education! Or so I like to think.

I bring this up because every semester I get so nervous to discuss these essays, and yet every semester I feel their importance tap me on the shoulder. This issue in particular is complex and divisive, and bringing it up in a 101 class is similarly complex and divisive. Every semester leaves me wondering if I should just give up and assign some Shakespearean sonnets or something else snooze-inducing.

And yet, this month is Black History Month, which makes the conversation fit pretty well. But also, who gives a fuck? Shouldn’t any essay fit in during any time of the year? Shouldn’t the perspectives of others always matter, especially in a collegiate setting, and especially when the perspective is that of a large group of people who feel the need to voice their opinion about a possible injustice in society? Isn’t the core of this country the opinion that voices matter, and that voices against injustice matter even more? (I’m looking at you, Thomas Jefferson.)

As a side note, I hate rhetorical questions. On a more focused note, it’s important to listen to and to talk about problems in our society, even if they make everyone involved a little bit uncomfortable. I personally hate being uncomfortable, but I did choose teaching, so I guess I fumbled the whole choosing-a-career thing. Nevertheless, teach on I will. And teach things important, I will forever.

If you’re interested in reading the two essays I assign, they are below. They are extremely worthwhile.

“The Price of Blackness”

“On Ferguson and the Enduring Resilience of Black People”

xo squea

 

For What It’s Worth (Which May Be Tons)

I’m back!

I’ve been offline for a while (for reasons that are boring), but I’m back now and ready to rock you in a very non-literal and barely even figurative way.

I love you, and want you to love me, and if not me, love my words and the fervor with which I write random stuff that maybe sounds pretty (but probably doesn’t).

My updated mission statement is that I will write always from the heart, and when my heart pauses or breaks, I’ll write from there, too. This basically means nothing, but who cares all the same.

Thank you/love you.

XO SQUEA

 

Tiny Tales from the Night-Time: Small Things

It was such a small thing.

Nobody even noticed it happen, actually. If it were to recur, surrounding parties would only re-not-notice.

And yet, it was such a big thing.

Customarily, big things hog all the attention and leave the littles out in the cold. So why would this be any different? It shouldn’t be different.

This time, however, this small (and yet big) thing carried the weight of the world–all the troubles and pains and jeers and cheers (not to mention fears) of all of the people of all of the world. And all of these people cried. They felt their weight lying on top of the shoulders of an unnamed, vaguely distinct person who glimpsed by in a dream they all had the same night.

Luckily, no one recalled the dream once they woke up. They brushed off the discomfort of a bad night’s sleep and wondered what to eat for breakfast. The weighty little-big thing escaped everyone’s attention, and everyone was perfectly fine.

Who would remember such a little thing?

xo squea

Tiny Tales from the Night-Time: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

The ticking of the clock grew louder, but time itself didn’t budge.

She looked out the window and waited. The entire world was absent as she sat in her living room alone and undisturbed. Her eyes were open, as they had been all day and every day before it. What she needed was a sign of life, and she was ready to wait her life for it. She didn’t expect much; almost anything would do the trick.

Where is everyone? 

She pondered as she sat watching an unfolding world unfold before her. Her body was still, the clock was still, and still, too, was the world. Not a thing moved that day, and so neither did she.

Her eyes glanced towards the clock that mocked her with immovable time.

I guess I’ll wait, she said aloud to no one. Still as a stone she remained when suddenly the clock came crashing off the wall into shards of broken wood and time.

Suddenly the ticking grew louder.

xo squea

My Story is Not Unique: Soft Sexism and the Need to Speak Up

Author’s note: Sexism does not only happen to women; however, this essay focuses specifically on female workplace harassment. 

The other morning while working, I experienced a disheartening, and yet, all too common situation.  I had just begun my workday when two men approached me, whom I greeted with a “good morning” and a smile (as is required by my job). Immediately, one of the two repeated my phrase in a higher-pitched voiced and with an even bigger smile. It was obvious that the man was mocking the way I said hello. I was quite surprised and immediately annoyed for more reasons than one, but mostly I wondered how I could be greeted so quickly with hostility for smiling.

Although most businesses teach their employees to treat every guest with kindness no matter what, I decided to be visibly affected by the behavior of these probably not-meaning-to-offend-anyone gentleman. Before we continued, I lowered my tone, unscrewed my smile, and asked if they would prefer I speak to them in a lower register. The men appeared first flabbergasted and then embarrassed, and then they began begging for me to “not act like that” and assuring me that they  “love people like me!”

The thing is, I need to be like that. I need to react to things that commonly don’t get reacted to. The problem with soft sexism (common demeaning behavior based on gender that is usually subtle) is that women often don’t say anything about it, and when they do, they are told that they are just overreacting, or worse, just being “too sensitive” (which is a sexist dig in itself).

When I told this story to my mother, she said “That’s just the world we live in.” It’s true. We live in a world where women are very commonly treated as less and for the least sensible reasons. If women don’t smile, they are told to “smile more!”. If they smile, they are told they smile  “too much,” and therefore are “asking for it.” Being a woman in America is a constant struggle between being too female and yet not female enough. These troubles come in so many forms it’s hard to keep track. Sometimes women are taken less seriously, sometimes women are flat out ignored, and other times women are degraded in the millions of other ways that actually exist and are real and should not be dismissed as oversensitive reactions.

For those of you who suffer through subtle yet common digs for who they are, there is little relief I can offer you; however, my recommendation is to say something. Speak up, if you can. Stand up for yourself and pave the way for others to do so as well. Every time you fight for yourself, you fight for someone else, too.

xo squea