Course Blog

Ways to Jumpstart your Writing and Research

Hi all!  A few of you have emailed me feeling a bit “stuck” in your work over break.  It can be hard to work by yourself!  I empathize.  So, I’ve put together a short list of “prompts.”  These can be done in any order.  And there is no pressure to complete all (or any!) of them.

Finally, if you are doing some pre-writing, don’t forget to safely collect all your pieces of writing in one place (virtual or analog).  Just don’t lose them!

  • Reread your proposal and my comments. After that, set a time an do a 15-20 min free write about what you think your next steps should be.
  • Pick one text you think you would like to work with (doesn’t matter if you are revisiting it or coming to it for the first time). Spend some time with it and then set a timer for 15-20 mins and do a free write.  Work on answering the questions: What (specifically) about this text is interesting to me?  Why?  Possibly spend some time close reading a scene or a moment.
  • Gather 2 or 3 of your texts and set a time for 15-20 mins. This time, free write about similarity in difference or difference in similarity.  If the texts are mostly similar, state why you think that, then look for an interesting difference and explore it.  If the texts are mostly different, state why and how, then look for a compelling similarity and explore it.
  • Spend 10 or so minutes brainstorming themes, motifs, questions, or repetitions you have seen in your texts so far. When you have a list of 25 or most things, go back and denote which ones feel most interesting to you.  Then, set a time and do a free write about one or two.  Really try to site specific moments from some of your texts.
  • Go back to our blog post prompts from the term (find them on the syllabus). Read over the various prompts and pick one.  If the prompt requires outside research, then spend a set amount of time on that (1-2 hours, perhaps).  Then, do a low-stakes freewrite for 20 mins answering the prompt with what you know.
  • Anxious? Make a list of all the things about which you are anxious when it comes to this project or the term itself. Only do this for a set amount of time (10 mins, perhaps).  Once you have a list, go back and start to write next to each anxiety a specific person or place or action that might help you if this anxiety becomes real.  (For example: anxiety—I don’t know enough about WWI. Possible solutions—make an appointment with Prof X or Prof Y; read that book about WWI history I have been procrastinating; watch a documentary about the time period to bolster my knowledge, etc.  OR anxiety—I cannot access all  the texts I need.  Possible solutions—make a list of all the texts I think I need, then star the ones I have access too now.  Begin reading though and note how I might be able to get the other texts when the term starts (ask a librarian, see a prof with a specialty in that area, etc)


I could go on and on.  Do these offer a good starting place for you?  Let me know what you think and feel free to email or leave a comment.

The Gilded Age and the Open Door Policy: The United States in 1899

In the cookbook, The American Salad Book by Maximilian DeLoup, there is an obvious nationalistic and triumphant tone of the United States and American culinary cuisine, As seen in the first page of the cook, DeLoup announces “By far the best recipes are those that have originated in the United States and, almost without exception, they are alike inexpensive, elegant and healthy” (DeLoup 5). DeLoup is putting the United States on a pedestal, and this is due to the country’s international standing at the time. In the year 1899, the Spanish-American War had ended and, due to the contents of the treaty, the United States was given the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico as spoils of the war. The United States had improved its political power by gaining territories, but during this time the United States made great leaps in infrastructure and discovered many natural resources. While the Gilded Age exploited many resources and individuals, it was an approach that, while negatively, improved the United States economic and social standing.  

Another essential historical fact that occurred during 1899 was the Open-Door Policy. This American foreign policy basically stated that all countries stated in the policy, especially the United States, would be able to have access to all Chinese trade ports and manage trade in China. This exploitative policy also assisted the United States in becoming wealthier and increased its control in Asia, reinforcing its position as a world power. Due to the United States’ ownership of countries like Puerto Rico and its attraction of individuals of all races and ethnicities, there is an exposure to a variety of cultural cuisines, they did not get the forefront in this cookbook, and probably others as well. In The American Salad Book, there is a section titled, “Miscellaneous Salads” which includes recipes like German salad, Russian salad, Dutch Salad, Japanese salad, Italian salad, Spanish salad, etc. The prideful; tone that this cookbook which highlights American excellence and the purposeful decision to put cultural salad recipes, except for French cuisine, which was internationally renowned, in a section named “Miscellaneous Salads” reveals the impacts that the time period on one’s perspectives. The lack of discourse surrounding cultural cuisine and the nationalistic views towards the United States could have an influence on the history of food and cooking in the United States. 

“The Gilded Age.” Scholastic, age.  

“Open Door Policy”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 February 2020,

De Loup, Maximilliam. The American Salad Book. G. R. Knapp, 1899.   

Writers about Writers: Pat Rothfuss’ Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett was a brilliant writer of fantasy and even better humorist, his satirical takes on fantasy in the form of the Discworld and Good Omens novels are some of the most self-aware and celebratory in the genre. It’s not a surprise then many authors were influenced by him to some degree — his name is associated with fantasy much in the same way Isaac Asimov is discussed in the science fiction community. Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicle series, is one such author who revered Sir Terry. Not long after the latter’s death, Rothfuss wrote a blog post where he lamented and acknowledged how much Sir Terry influenced him as a person and author, picking out some quotes from a 1995 Onion interview with Sir Terry on the perception of fantasy as a genre and how reading that inspired him (Rothfuss).

The interviewer in this article talks about how Sir Terry’s writing skills are so impeccable he could’ve chosen anything and been successful: yet he chose fantasy, why? Sir Terry proceeds to acknowledge a little annoyed that while yes, fantasy is looked down on to some degree, its influence and status cannot be denied historically and critically. “Fantasy is without a shadow of a doubt the ur-literature, the spring from which all other literature has flown. “, he says, citing how works like Beowulf, Gilgamesh and even the Indian Bhagadvad Gita are all arguably fantasy works by modern day views.

“Fantasy is kind of a plasma in which other things can be carried. I don’t think this is a ghetto. This is, fantasy is, almost a sea in which other genres swim. Now it may be that there has developed in the last couple of hundred years a subset of fantasy which merely uses a different icongraphy, and that is, if you like, the serious literature, the Booker Prize contender. Fantasy can be serious literature. Fantasy has often been serious literature.” (The Onion).

Even American classics like Moby Dick and Gulliver’s Travels are fantasy works according to Sir Terry. Given that they are seen as serious literature, why pretend other works of fantasy shouldn’t be viewed as such?

Rothfuss admits this interview changed his life. In 1995, pre-Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and more cultural works that occupy the fantasy landscape and popular imagination, Rothfuss felt a little shame enjoying the genre because it was looked down upon, even though he was writing a fantasy novel! I feel the same way too to some degree, even today doing my thesis research I feel a little dumb looking at fantasy stories and ‘lowbrow’ mediums like video games where my classmates are looking at more ‘serious literature’. But both Rothfuss and I remembered why Sir Terry is important to us through this interview, and how fantasy shouldn’t be dismissed because it really does occupy a lot of cultural space: from The Avengers today to older works that wouldn’t be necessarily tagged as fantasy. There’s no shame in it and it should be enjoyed, it should be viewed critically for analysis. I definitely also really enjoyed the highly controversial take that fantasy tropes are prevalent in a lot of work not necessarily “fantasy”, because it lends credence to that genre’s influence and how audiences can enjoy it as a form of ‘high’ art. Rothfuss’ tribute was also written in 2015, and since then I think we’ve seen a lot more acceptance of fantasy as a genre too, even outside of literature. Given all of this, it’s hard to really dismiss it when it’s the critical elephant in the room right now waiting to be examined further.

Works Cited

Rothfuss, Patrick. “Thoughts on Pratchett – [Part 1].” Thoughts on Pratchett – [Part 1], 24 Aug. 2015,

Cain and Abel – Uncovering the Unconscious

The Bible is full of stories that on the surface may seem theatrical and entertaining, yet in entertaining these stories further, a new interpretation is uncovered. I feel as if this is particularly true in the book of Genesis. Some of the most famous and crucial stories that form the foundation of the Bible are found in Genesis- they are also extremely short. For example, the story of Cain and Abel is only sixteen lines, however, its implicit meaning gives it life. 

The life of the story of Cain and Abel is a representation of several binaries. The very nature of the title is binary by the use of two brothers. Although many binaries can be examined, I will look at the idea of doing what is right vs. doing what is wrong in the sense of moral action. 

Cain and Abel are brothers. They are the first brothers in the history of mankind. Cain “cultivates the earth” and Abel was a “shepherd.” The story follows as such: 

“When it was time for harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift– the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.” 

Cain’s anger seems justifiable. Why would the Lord accept his brother, Abel’s gift, but not his own? I can only imagine the self-doubt, angst, and lack of confidence the Lord’s unapproved must have bestowed upon Cain. He watched as his brother, with seemingly the same type of offering, was accepted by the Lord while he was left with nothing. 

Looking through Cains’ eyes, this cruelty from the Lord seems to me as a representation of the cruelty of nature. Whether or not you believe in a God, or a higher power influencing your life and the lives around you, the moral of the story can be understood. 

We all have had days where we feel as if the laws of nature are working against us, despite whether our intentions, work ethic, and spirit are all in accordance and aligned towards achieving our goal, but still some higher power is stopping us from reaching it. 

I feel as if this is how Cain is receiving the Lord’s denial of his offering. Following a moment like this, we as humans can become dejected like Cain, or we can continue to act with the same positive intentions, work ethic, and spirit. And this is the same message God feeds to Cain: 

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” 

The Lord offers Cain the wisdom that he must be the master over his depression and anger, or it will consume him. The Lord implies that Cain “will be accepted” if he just does what is right. The Lord never states that Cain’s offering was wrong or not enough, thus perhaps it was a challenge to test Cain’s faith and character. 

This story, from likely thousands of years ago, still rings true today. Despite its brevity, when uncovered, it provides the wisdom that still persists to this day. Cain’s true colors shine through when he is faced with a bit of strife and overcome with the vice of envy over his brother. We all endure challenges in our daily goals and missions. We all experience unfair outcomes for other people or feel as if our sacrifices for others are not acknowledged, similar to how God did not acknowledge Cain’s sacrifice. Yet the correct response is to stay true to your mission and do what is right, for following the alternative path is to fall victim, or slave, to your vices. 

James Baldwin’s Interview with Robert Penn Warren

In his interview with Robert Penn Warren on April 27, 1964, James Baldwin discusses the state of the racial divide in the United States. Throughout his dialogue, Baldwin consolidates core ideas to advocate for the recognition of the intricacies of Black beauty—a recognition he says is impossible within the construct of the United States as it was and is. James Baldwin’s interview with Robert Penn Warren reveals central themes of his work, which, when compared chronologically, unearth his revolution toward a more radical revolutionism. 

Baldwin obviously relies on the comparison between the state of the racial divides in the North and the South in his discussions of the United States. In the interview, which occurred in 1964, Baldwin says “It seems to me that the South is ruled, very largely so, by an oligarchy which rules for its own benefit, and not only oppresses Negroes and murders them, but really imprisons and victimizes the bulk of the white population” (Baldwin). This point is reminiscent of points that he had made previously in his essay “Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter from the South” (1961), in which he examined the racial divide in Southern cities and reflected on their severity as a Black man in the North. However, in the interview, he goes further than observation to propose that “the difference between the North and the South were really when the chips were down that they had different techniques of castrating you then than they had in the North, but the fact of the castration remained exactly the same, and that was the intention in both places” (Baldwin). He equalizes the North and the South as he had not in “Nobody Knows my Name”, and the connection causes the complete emasculation and destruction of the Black man in the United States. A year after the interview, in the year 1965, Baldwin explicitly depicts this universal and grotesque castration in his short story titled “Going to Meet the Man.” The comparison between the North and the South is obviously a topic that Baldwin deems necessary to pay attention to, but the comparison between those attentions he pays exposes Baldwin’s growing radicalism. 

Baldwin’s points in the interview regarding the struggle with Black masculine identity are also reminiscent of his fiction and nonfiction work. In the interview, Baldwin explains, “It was very hard for me to accept Western European values because they didn’t accept me… any Negro born in this country spends a great deal of time trying to be accepted, trying to find a way to operate within the culture and to – not to be made to suffer so much by it but nothing you do works. No matter how many showers you take, no matter what you do, these Western values simply absolutely resist and reject you” (Baldwin). While this echoes the Bildungsroman struggles of John in his novel Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), it almost repeats points that he had made in his essay “The Fire Next Time”: “Every Negro boy—in my situation during those years, at least—who reaches this point realizes, at once, profoundly, because he wants to live, that he stands in great peril and must find, with speed, a “thing”, a gimmick, to lift him out, to start him on his way” (“The Fire Next Time”). The exploration of the implications of approaching Black masculine identity grounds Baldwin’s work. However, the specificity that comes in his later essay and interview are more founded explanations of the struggle he had only danced around in his earlier fiction. 

While the themes discussed in this blog post so far reveal concepts that are universal, though increasingly developed, in Baldwin’s work, the revolutionism in the interview and his later essays is nowhere to be found in Baldwin’s earliest fiction and nonfiction work. In the interview he explains to Robert Penn Warren, “…is impossible to be separate but equal. If one is equal, why should he be separate? And it’s that- it’s the history of that doctrine which created almost all the Negro’s despair and also the country’s despair. So, I think that the instinct to destroy the doctrine is quite sound” (Baldwin). Violent vocabulary like “destroy” is quite contrary to Baldwin’s earlier points, such as that in “Notes of a Native Son” from 1955, in which he professes his love for the United States which is “more than any country in this world” (“Notes of a Native Son”). Just as violent, though, are later thoughts in his essays. From “To Be Baptized” (1972): “A person does not lightly elect to oppose his society. One would much rather be at home among one’s compatriots than be mocked and detested by them. And there is a level on which the mockery of the people, even in their hatred, is moving because it is so blind: it is terrible to watch people cling to their captivity and insist on their own destruction. I think black people have always felt this about America, and Americans, and have always seen, spinning above the thoughtless American head, the shape of the wrath to come” (To Be Baptized”).

James Baldwin’s interview with Robert Penn Warren highlights central themes to Baldwin’s ideology, but upon examination also holds the map to see how Baldwin had grown as a man, scholar, and revolutionary. One can only imagine the impact he would have in the era of Black Lives Matter. 

War and Women: 1930s England

Just one year before World War II broke out, Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca was published.  It takes place in Cornwall, England, where the author spent much of her life; however, at this time she was currently living in Egypt with her husband.  Due to the impending war, the coming years before the novel’s debut were filled with political and social strife, which perhaps influenced the constant tension inside the world of the novel.  Many nations were still recovering from the devastation of World War I and desperately wished to avoid entering another as Hitler gained power and began expanding his territory.  The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain advocated for an appeasement policy, in which Germany could expand without dispute, to help prevent the U.K. from greater slaughter (“How”).  Culturally, the U.K. was also facing complicated gender conflicts, which most certainly would have had an impact on du Maurier.  In 1918, women in the U.K. gained the right to vote; American women would get that privilege just two years later. By the 1930s, women were starting to parcel out their place in society in this interwar period.  They could receive some form of education, work, get divorced, etc., but they still belonged to the subordinate group (Souhami).  The small percentage (1/3) of women who did work, were only offered smaller-paying jobs, like care work or domestic assistance, which hardly offered them an escape from the home (Souhami).  Additionally, “the civil service, the education sector and nursing all operated a ‘marriage bar’, which meant women had to resign when they married” (Souhami).  It seems as though this time period offered the allusion of freedom and agency for women, but the emphasis on their domestic role remained.  Same-sex relationships were still frowned upon and single women were still shunned.

The cultural environment in England, as well as other countries worldwide, and the inconsistency of gender performance in society certainly reveals a fascinating relationship with the novel.  While women struggled between these two contrasting social expectations, Daphne du Maurier chose to center her novel Rebecca largely in the domestic space.  Women were trying to experience life outside the home, but du Maurier placed readers right back in it.  In the novel, the narrator, Mrs. de Winter, primarily faces the challenges of maintaining the large estate and staff at Manderley, as well as navigating this new marriage and its secrets.

“How Britain Hoped to Avoid War with Germany in the 1930s.” Imperial War Museums, 2021,

Souhami, Diana. “The 1930s: ‘Women had the vote, but the old agitation went on’.” The Guardian, 2018,

Chivalry: More than a Shiny Helmet

Imagine you’re a knight living in 16th century the British Isles. Lots of ale and mead, shiny armor and sword, and a cushy noble status that provides you with great respect from all those around you. Sounds pretty good, right? Well aside from the fact that you would be drinking alcohol out of necessity for lack of clean drinking water, that status was earned through life-long training followed by long campaigns filled with periods of hunger and exhaustion. That armor is starting to look a little heavy, isn’t it? But all that aside, one of the most important things you need to understand about being a knight is what chivalry means in medieval society. And no, it’s not just jousting and helping young maidens across large puddles to avoid getting their skirts wet. Chivalry wasn’t just a thing you acted out, it was a principle you had to immerse yourself in, an ideal you had to gain through experiences, through trials, and tribulations. This idea of chivalry is what allows us to understand the genre of medieval romances.

One such romance is The Squire of Low Degree. With this piece, as with many others of the era, it might be easy for modern readers to fall into the trap of analyzing the protagonist with on our modern notions of what chivalry was in medieval England, which if we are being honest are mostly informed by Hollywood movies, bedtime stories, and the like. The idea of chivalry was necessary in a time where instability and death ran rampant. It held people to a greater standard, especially with regard to the power (both physically and societally) that these men held. In Phillip M. Taylor’s book, Munitions of the Mind, he quotes historian Johan Huizinga in saying that chivalry was “‘the strongest of all the ethical conceptions which dominated the mind and heart’ of late medieval man”(Taylor, 67). In short, chivalry was something that these knights developed over a lifetime of experiences. This is possibly why medieval romances focus so heavily on the epic-style narrative which sees the main character going through unexpected trials which shape his character and evolve him into the hero that deserves a happy ending.

While The Squire of Low Degree is shorter than many epic-style poems of the time and therefore does not have the classic romantic structure wherein the plot contains “side-quests” with multiple villains, which allow the protagonist to strengthen their moral principles, in addition to the main quest aka the goal of the knight in shining armor to slay the dragon and marry the princess if you will. However, the squire as well as the princess in the story must go through a similarly long journey in order to find their happily ever after. They must both endure time apart (seven years to be precise) and dangerous betrayals. The squire is betrayed multiple times by the steward who tries to spoil his romance with the princess by reporting it to the king and again when he physically attacks him. The princess is betrayed by her father in a sense as he makes her believe that the squire is dead for those seven years. Honestly, if I had been mourning over the wrong dead body and keeping it in my bedroom for seven years and my own father never told me, I might be shocked enough to faint, too! All in all, we see from this poem and from others of its kind, that chivalry was a party of medieval life that allowed society to function in a time of plagues and starvation.


Philip M. Taylor. “The Chivalric Code.” Munitions of the Mind, Manchester University Press, 2013, p. 67–72.

Exploring Feminism through the word Erotic

Audre Lorde, a black lesbian feminist poet, became an ultimate symbol of liberation and radical social change for women across America. Throughout her childhood, she explored poetry as a form of communication.  Lorde’s poetry focused on many controversial topics related to disability, race, lesbian feminism, and exploration of identity. In her 1978 essay “The Erotic as a Power,” Audre Lorde exhibits a message of empowerment through promoting the power of the word erotic and its many other meanings that exist yet lack existence in our society. 

In her essay, Lorde explores how societal norms are shaped through patriarchal views in our society.  As a lesbian feminist, eroticism can be unpacked to explore how the power the word holds is shaped by society but how it can be used in non-sexual ways.  As Lorde takes away the sexual power of the word erotic, she allows women to feel empowered to fight against the sexist ideologies in America for ages. 

Women have been sexualized for generations, whether for what they wear, how they are portrayed in media, or how men believe they should behave. The strength of the male gaze has influenced the power of the word erotic to be more often used or thought of with sexual connotations. Lorde defines erotic as “an assertion of the life force of woman; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our lives.”  In defining the word like this, Audre Lorde gives power back to women and empowers them to believe that it is more than okay to go against social norms. 

The essay not only gives power to women but lesbian women as well.  Speaking to feminism, she promotes the idea that women have “non-rational” knowledge that women only believe is “non-rational” due to the social norms that have been curated for them by men.  She writes, “We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibility of it within themselves” (Lorde 54).  This section of the essay explores how men have overpowered women’s beliefs as a means of controlling them to benefit themselves. 


Between the Acts (and World Wars)

Virginia Woolf’s last novel, Between the Acts, is situated right in the interwar period; it is 1938 when she begins writing the novel and she continues until her death in 1941, which exactly aligns with the period between World War I and II. The novel is written under this context of looming war and political unrest, and is set in the Oliver’s family country house. Due to the magnitude of the historical events unfolding around her, Woolf worried that Between the Acts was ‘too silly and trivial’ to be published (“Between the Acts…”). Rather than focusing on the war explicitly, the novel fixates on pageant culture of English county homes and the grand mansion, Poyntz Hall, of the Oliver family. Mrs. The spinster-esque character, Mrs. La Trobe, conducts the performance and planning of the pageant, which is a showcase of sorts of British history. The whole village community attends to watch this spectacle. Although I have yet to read the novel, I would infer that the pastoral escape-to-the-county trope combined with the distraction of the pageant could be a means of coping with the horrors of industrialized wartime and bombing. Perhaps Woolf felt this “frivolous” during the time, but such a plot seems to give a glimpse of civilian life and British societal culture that is female centered and just as valuable historically in comparison to the masculine, political sphere of war. The country house as a safe space for this to happen is also crucial, as it is grounded in nature rather than a city or urban landscape. In this setting, there is some distance from the war for creativity and a sense of stability for characters who are most likely under the threat of facism and the encroaching second world war. In fact, Woolf at the time is also struggling with her own mental health, a battle she fought throughout her life but likely worsened by the anxiety of the times. In her suicide note to her husband Leonard, who was a Jewish man facing persecution, she writes; “Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time” (“Between the Acts…”). The historical and social context of wartime is integral to the reading of Between the Acts and to Woolf, as she writes during the tumultuous time while grappling with her own mental health.

Clark, Alex. “Between the Acts: Virginia Woolf’s Last Book.” BBC Culture, BBC, 23 Mar. 2016, 

Thanksgiving like This

Thanksgiving 2006


Brooklyn’s too cold tonight

& all my friends are three years away.

My mother said I could be anything

I wanted—but I chose to live.

On the stoop of an old brownstone,

a cigarette flares, then fades.

I walk to it: a razor

sharpened with silence.

His jawline etched in smoke.

The mouth where I reenter

this city. Stranger, palpable

echo, here is my hand, filled with blood thin

as a widow’s tears. I am ready.

I am ready to be every animal

you leave behind.

Ostensibly, an American Thanksgiving is an occasion of family gathering and an occasion to express your gratitude for the people and the things that enable you to be where you are (assuming that where you are is a positive place). “Thanksgiving 2006” by Ocean Vuong is a poem that disrupts such an event and its naive meaning.

The first line situates us, not in an enclosed domestic scene of warmth and kins, but in a vast space of a city, “Brooklyn”, and the “too cold” weather to be comfortable. The speaker is alone; all his friends are “three years away,” which is an odd signification of distance, where distance is not measured by physical length but by an excessive amount of time; have his friends been dead for three years? If not dead, then he hasn’t seen them for three years? and thus the temporal distance is irreversible as he has alienated himself from his friends by leaving for the city? Regardless, it is Thanksgiving and the speaker is in a vast lonesome harsh space, where time prevents his access to a community of support.

To break away from this aloneness (or is it loneliness? does the former mean the latter for him?), he heads towards a man. For a few days as I reread the poem, I kept thinking of this man as the speaker’s lover, just because of the physical fact of his “mouth,” of his carnal flesh that enables the speaker to reexperience the city through the act of kissing. His mouth is the site where the speaker “reenter [the] city,” where the city is no longer unbound but has been reduced to a particular site where the speaker can take refuge. Then, I realize that there doesn’t have to be an emotional aspect to their relationship; in fact, the speaker does not reveal his relationship to this man beyond the fact of the flesh. The man, likely a stranger whom the speaker seeks to quench his aloneness, is nevertheless a warm carnal site that replaces the traditional Thanksgiving.

The passage that the speaker takes towards the man, his very act of “walk[ing]”  is described as analogous to “a razor/ sharpened with silence.” I’m inclined to read this as a sign of danger, that the very act of reaching this stranger man can be dangerous as what stands between them is “silence,” is nothing as the speaker does not know him. This danger is juxtaposed with the pleasure the speaker later gains from his encounter with the man. It is a risk the speaker is willing to take to not be alone.

Interestingly, the speaker’s encounter with the man is only experienced in fragments and in attributes and never in wholes. When heading towards the man, the speaker follows the sight of his cigarette but not the man himself; the cigarette becomes the light, which “flares, then fades,” an attribute of the man, serving as a beacon to guide the speaker’s direction. The speaker zooms in to the man’s body parts and its attributes: his jawline, his mouth, his cigarette; only the fragments of and around his face. Is this because this man is a stranger and therefore cannot be fully experienced whole? Or is it because the speaker is simply fractured psychically? Both?

Even the speaker becomes a fragment: “here is my hand,” he says, offering one hand to the man or to us readers. The hand bears the history of loss as it is described as “filled with blood thin/as a widow’s tears.” Sure, the blood can be read to be on his hand, the blood of loss on par with the loss of a loved one experienced by a widow; but it can also be read as inside his hand, the blood that “fill[s]” him inside, signifying that he carries the loss within; the loss and the trauma of blood and tears that has fractured him and his ongoing experience. All the lines are separated by blank white space. What is it that the poem leaves out? This silence, the blankness; are they the unspeakable of trauma? or empty loneliness?

Early in the poem, the speaker evokes his mother’s encouragement that he “could be anything/[he] wanted”, meaning that: with acute ambition, the speaker can achieve anything, any title that he can eventually become grateful for at the occasion of Thanksgiving; but, the speaker resists; instead, he “chose to live,” to live without having to strive ruthlessly, ambitiously for any social accomplishment. Perhaps at the end of the poem, we have a better glimpse of what that living looks like: the speaker is “ready,” ready “to be every animal/you leave behind.” Is he assuming the position of the subaltern? of the things people leave out when expressing their gratitude at Thanksgiving? …