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Introduction of the Project





This project is a literature project that we had to make for English. One was able to choose a theme from 3 different themes, Love, Death and Alternative Realities. I chose death. Because I chose death I had to do the project without help of a teacher, except if you asked for it. You had to make a report on 3 poems and a short story, you should also choose his favourite song and explain why it was your favourite. Making an essay about a novel was also part of the project. The last part of the project was to write your own poem.





Introduction of the theme





Death is an interesting and also a very complicated theme, the last time death is also a very actual theme. The news about “de Pil van Trion” and the “euthanasiewet” went over whole the world. Then there’s also “MKZ” which causes animals to be killed. And, of course, there’s the “normal” death and people who die because of war. So death is a very theme with many different sites. The types of death that I’ll deal with in this poem are; murder, war and natural death. Death is also a theme that moves you, it is always a sad occasion when somebody dies and it is also something strange; what will happen when you’re death, does heaven really exist?


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Taking it personally – Robert Friend





It’s about death and it’s about how the author faces death, personally.





In the first four lines he says something we, in reality, sometimes also say: ”It won’t happen to me”. He says the same about motor accidents and cancer and after that he says: “I begin to see an end to my endlessness” in which he doubts about his quote in the first two lines.





Then he says that his friends see changes in his anatomy, so he’s changing and that’s made even more clear when he tells: “He’s got a body and a face of fifty”, so he’s not content with it and he misses his young looks.





Then he starts acting very desperately, when he says: “No matter how I feel, how I behave, it seems I have one foot in the grave”. This is an expression of someone who doesn’t see the future very brightly, maybe a guy in a midlife crisis.





He continues talking about his age and looks and he says he “looks in the mirror gravely”, that’s got a double meaning, he looks in the mirror glum but he also makes you think of a grave for a dead person, so that’s macabre.





He says the mirror always shows the same, his age, his looks, and they aren’t the age and looks he wants to see. So he’s not happy with himself.





People say to him that good dinners remain and books face facts wisely to console him and to give him a more positive look of himself.





But in the end he says he’ll take his accident or heart attack just as personally. He means with it that the good dinners and good books won’t prevent him from dying and he worries about it now he’s getting older and older.





Personal valuation


I think “Taking it personally” by Robert Friend is a nice poem. I think it has a good construction and that makes the poem very clear to me. I also like it because it’s realistic, you can imagine the man who feels death coming closer and it’s possible that somebody has the same feelings and thinks the same. I also like the word play in line 11 when the author says: “I look into the mirror gravely”.





Two deaths – Elizabeth Jennings





In the first stanza the author writes about someone who saw a movie about the war showing the destruction in a flat part of Poland. And she asks herself the question what she will remember.





The second stanza starts with the answer on the question asked in the first stanza. She says: “The blazing dawn over the European ravaged plain and a white unsaddled horse, the only calm living creature. Will only such pictures remain?” So she doubts about what she will remember, only the good things…


In this stanza she thinks about something worse that she’ll remember: a boy who’s running while he’s been shot. Then she says that he’s still a young boy who had never “seen blood” so he didn’t ever see the terror of war and he was “dying without dignity”, dying because you’re shot is not very heroic. But he’s still brave and tries to make the best of it.





She says, in the third stanza, that “she’s ashamed not to have seen anyone dead” because she saw the movie but she feels “obligated” to really experience the war. She feels “obligated” to really experience the war because a lot of people suffered during the war and she feels “obligated” to share the suffering.


After that she talks about a dead cat she saw yesterday and she says that she “thought about violence and death all day”. So it’s very likely that she’s very mud by the movie and I think that’s because, like she writes in the last line: “I’ve never seen anyone die”.





Personal valuation


I think “Two deaths” by Elizabeth Jennings is a very good poem. I think most people who have never seen anyone die, in reality, react the same on the movie. It’s very hard to see people die and especially in a war because death is then the result of terror and it’s not a “nice” dead. You’re always afraid in a war to die and that makes the dead even more terrifying.





To an athlete dying young – A.E. Housman





In the first stanza the author writes about the time the athlete was a hero, all the people in the village were happy and were cheering. They brought the athlete home “shoulder-high”. This stanza is very happy.





But in the second stanza the happiness quickly fades away. The author writes: “Today, the road all runner come”, what means the path to death, to the underworld. And than he gives a sentence from the first stanza a very different meaning: “shoulder-high we bring you home”. In the first stanza this is great, but in the second stanza they carry his coffin on their shoulders. And they put him next to his grave. And he’s “townsman of a stiller town” because everybody is very sad because he died.





In the third stanza the author writes that the athlete died at the “right moment”. Because people forget old-heroes who are still alive but people keep remembering the dead ones. And he left before “the laurel withers”, so he left before his renown outran.





In the fourth stanza they talk about “eyes the shady night has shut cannot see the record cut”. This means now he’s dead he will ever keep his record because he can’t see it if anyone breaks the record. “And silence”, when they forget him, “sounds no worse than cheers after earth has stopped the ears”, he also can’t hear anymore.





In the fifth stanza the author says that the athlete will now not be forgotten because he’s dead and then his fame doesn’t fade away.





In the sixth stanza the author writes that they put the coffin next to his grave before “the echoes fade”, before anybody forgets him. And the author also writes about “the still-defended challenge-cup”, he won it and he can’t lose it anymore.





In the last stanza the author says that “round that early-laurelled head will flock to gaze the strengthless dead”, he died young and got his fame young and that won’t fade away anymore. “And find unwithered on its curls, the garland briefer than a girls”. That’s about the laurel on his grave.





Personal valuation


I liked the poem but it was hard to understand, I didn’t know a lot of words so I had to use my dictionary often. The sentence building was also hard to understand but it made the construction of the poem nicer. After all it was a hard poem but after you helped me I understood it and I was able to make a report on it.











Why do I live?








So close to die


so close to why


if I want to, why don’t I?


so close but still to far


My eyes are like shadow


can’t keep a secret from me


so close to the truth


but still to far


Sometimes I ask myself


why am I alive?


Thinkin´He has a plan for me


so close but still to far


Answers to my questions


What’s the meaning of life?


no one knows


Every one dies


What am I trying to accomplish?


What am I trying to say?


That life is worth living.


And I think that is okay.








Goodnight Saigon





I think it’s a good song, not only the music is good, and it is (I downloaded Bill Joël version from Napster), but also the text is very good. I like all the contradictions, which are cruel but also a bit humoristic: “We came in spastic, like tameless horses”----“We left in plastic, like numbered corpses”. And I also liked the humoristic part: “We had no cameras to shoot the landscape”.





The construction of the song is also nice; it’s like a story. The songwriter tells you a story with this song. The text and the music make this song to a really tragic one that really moves you and you can imagine pictures while you listen to the song.


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Ironweed – William Kennedy





The book Ironweed is about Francis Phelan was once a famous ball-player who played professional for the Washington Senators. He was also an honest father. However he has to deal with death a lot of times, and I’ll deal with all the parts in the book in which people die.





The first time Francis Phelan left his house was after he killed a scab with a rock during a strike. This death was a murder he committed. After this murder he came back but in 1936 he left again. This time because his son Gerald died, this was Francis’ fault because he dropped the baby when he changed his diaper, so he killed somebody for the second time in his life.


About this accident he says the following when somebody asks him what happened to his son: “He fell”, “He fell where?”, “He fell on the floor”, “Hell, I fall on the floor about twice a day and I ain’t dead”, “That’s what you think”.


He never came home again because he felt to guilty to come home. After 22 years Francis returned to Albany. He was an alcoholic and he has got hallucinations. When he returns he already killed a lot more people, because the living on the street isn’t easy, at this stage Francis was a mass-murderer. Francis lives on the street together with his soul mate Helen. Francis gets a job. In a café he meets his son Billy, after he met him he decided to visit his wife. He doesn’t know that at the same time Helen is dying because of her cancer in a hotel room.


His wife and the children received him friendly and he had dinner. His wife asked him whether he would like to life in her house. He refuses this proposal. When he’s on the streets again raiders attack him. He killed a raider and he goes to the hotel room where Helen was, so he killed another person. There he finds her dead. Helen had got a tumor in her stomach. Francis works at the graveyard where his son has been buried. This causes a lot of pain, so this time Francis didn’t kill somebody, this time somebody died because of an illness





Of course the theme of this book is death. Francis Phelan kills a lot of people and the story is about the way he deals with this.





Personal valuation:


I liked the book very much because I think it is an exciting book and it has a good moral too. In a part of the story there’s written that the brothers Daugherty couldn’t enter the city of Albany because they came from an infected ship. This shows how America was in the ’30s, no help for the poor, and that’s also shown in the part of the story where people destroyed “buildings” from the poor who had no house. There was no social security in that time and you can see that it was a tough society.








Report on the short story: “The Voyage”





The short story I read, “The Voyage” by Katherine Mansfield, was about a girl, Fenella, who walked at the docks together with her father and grandmother to a ship that would bring her grandmother and herself to her grandfather. Her father would stay here. She went to her grandfather in black clothes because her mother had just died. When she left her father she got 1 shilling from him and when she got it she thought that she would never see her father again because it was a lot of money. She shouted his name but he was already gone. Then the ship left the port and she was going to her grandfather. At the ship they went to their hut and when they arrived there, they slept for a while. When she slept a stewardess brought grandmother something to drink and they talked about Fenella and the fact that she’d lost her mother, her grandmother said that it was natural that people come and people go. Her grandmother and the stewardess thought that Fenella slept but she was awake and heard the whole conversation. When the ship arrived its destination Fenella and her grandmother took a little cart and drove to her grandfather who was waiting for them at his home. When they arrived he greeted her and above his bed she saw a big text:





Lost! One golden hour.


Set with sixty diamond Minutes.


No Reward is offered


For it is GONE FOR EVER





This text did, of course, remember her at the good time she had when her mother was still alive, but she couldn’t get her mother back because she was “gone for ever”. The sixty diamond minutes were the age of her mother.





Evaluation





I liked the project, however it was a lot of work, especially because I had to do everything alone because I had no partner, because I couldn’t convince Ingeborg to choose death. It was nice because it was something different from what we usually did. I learned a lot about poems and I began to like the poems and the song I was dealing with, while I, in the beginning, thought that it would be very boring.


Everything went well during the project except that I didn’t understand one poem but with you help I was able to deal with the poem.


I also think, that although I hadn’t got a partner it wasn’t difficult to finish before the deadline, maybe that’s because that you don’t have to communicate with other people and I think that saves time sometimes. I also don’t think that it was a big advantage to do it with a partner because you had to make 2 poems and you had to choose 2 song texts. And of course you had to check each others work.


My conclusion is that this was a nice project although it was a lot of work and you learned a lot during this project.





Reading list





I haven’t used background literature and I also haven’t consulted the Internet. So I can’t include that in my reading list. However I’ll include the poems, the short story, the novel and the song text in it.





· Taking it personally, Robert Friend, from the handout we got


· Two deaths, Elizabeth Jennings, from the handout we got


· To an athlete dying young, A.E. Housman, from the handout we got


· The Voyage, Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party, Penguin Books Harmondsworth, 1980


· Ironweed, William Kennedy, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1986


· Goodnight Saigon, Billy Joël, from the handout we got
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