Sunday, September 5, 2010

Poetry of Witness

As I was reading the “Poetry of Witness” tab all the poems appealed to me.  One of my favorite poems I read was “Charlie Howard’s Descent” by Mark Doty.   The fear and pain that Howard was feeling I was feeling with him.  Charlie Howard was a hate crime victim.  Howard was a homosexual man, killed by three teenagers who taunted him for being gay and then decided to throw him over the State Street Bridge.  The teenage boys did not know Howard could not swim and ultimately drowned.  Doty envisioned Howard’s thoughts and feelings of fear remarkably.  I felt the fear and sadness Howard must have been feeling at that very moment.  “Up the ladder of his fall, out of the river into the arms of the three teenage boys, who hurled him from the edge-really boys now, afraid, their fathers’ cars shivering behind them….they didn’t believe he couldn’t swim” (Doty lines 42-51).  The Charlie Howard’s story inspires me in many ways.  At the end of Mark Doty’s poem he says Charlie “blesses his killers in the way that only the dead can afford to forgive” (Doty lines 52-54).  We can all learn for the poem and the true story of Charlie Howard, and become a more excepting society.
                     Here is a link about Mark Doty:

                The second poem that moved me was “The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window” by Joy Harjo.  The poem is set in East Chicago and it tells the story of a single mother who sees suicide as the only way out her “dreadful” life. “She thinks she will be set free” as she hangs from the thirteenth floor window (Harjo).  In the poem the woman hanging is seeking comfort from her own childhood memories “when she was young she ate wild rice on scraped down plates in warm wood rooms” (Harjo).  As you keep reading you start feeling the same sadness and loneliness she has been experiencing for years now.  She knows she is not alone as “she thinks of Carlos, of Margret, of Jimmy” (Harjo).  She is the mother of three, but she still feels alone and hopeless.  She tries to talk and explain her emotions but “her teeth break off at the edges” and she cannot express her feelings, instead she feels she can only express her feelings through her suicide (Harjo).  Harjo tries to show us that we ultimately make our own decision on how we want to live our life.  The woman knows “she is hanging by her own fingers, her own skin, her own thread of indecision” and she must make a major decision in her life by the power of her own fingertips.  Everyone must make major decisions in life that will ultimately change lives drastically.  At the end of the poem Harjo writes that the woman “thinks she remembers listening to her own life break loose, as she falls from the 13th floor window…or as she climbs back up to claim herself again” (Harjo).  The ending seems to give us the idea that she never chose to go through with the suicide and instead decided to find her identity again and the person she once was. 
                      Here is a link about Joy Harjo: 

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