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by Sarah Sadlier
Oh Captain! My Captain!
In your tomb by the sounding sea,
How I have longed for thee!
Of Sea-Captains young or old,
Of all intrepid Sailors,
You were the bright-eyed mariner—
The star to every wandering bark
And every moving carrier.
But no man is an island,
And of the wide world I stand alone, and think
That I shall never look upon thee more
And never breathe a word about your loss,
But if I had to perish twice,
It would be with you in wild waves’ toss,
And not waving but drowning
With perishing great darkness that closes in,
For only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery
And see what lies within.
But a voice calls from abyss deep:
“Come to my arms my beamish boy
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
Our fearful trip is done. ‘Tis time
To unite with me forever,
Or my soul eternally keep.”
1.“Oh Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman
2.“Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
4. “Song for All Seas, All Ships” by Walt Whitman
5. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
6. “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare
9. “No Man Is an Island” by John Donne
10. “When I have Fears that I may Cease to Be” by John Keats
11-12.“If” by Rudyard Kipling
13. “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost
15. “Not Waving but Drowning” by Stevie Smith
16. “1914” by Wilfred Owen
17-18. “The Secret of the Sea” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
21. “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
22. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary FryeTags: Sarah Sadlier
Blog, Blog feature, Creative Writing, From the Editors, Poetry »
by Irene Hsu
I follow a thread on Quora called, “What is the wisest/smartest thing you’ve ever heard a child say?“, and the answers tend to be about life lessons and truths simply spelled out by kids 10 and under—much like Frank O’Hara’s poems.
Like children’s observations, Frank O’Hara’s poems are fresh as flowers, unburdened by melodrama and free of cynicism, as though O’Hara could see the world through lenses colored not in rose nor sepia, but in the noncolor of clarity. For instance, in his poem, “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island,” he sums up individuality in twelve words: “You may/not be the greatest thing on earth, but/you’re different.” It is all at once humbling, flattering, and true.
This remix is a tribute to his clarity, to truth, and to the wonder of human bonds. While we are hardly the greatest things on earth, there will always be a best friend, a doting parent, a special someone who who would love more than anything to have a coke with us.
is even more fun than going to
another country, going to another shore,
finding another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried like something dead
Down in the valley drumming, drumming
not be the greatest thing on earth, but
Come like a light in the white mackerel sky,
come like a daytime comet
with a long unnebulous train of words,
break into flame late on an autumn day, with such beauty.
3-6. “The City“—C.P. Cavafy
7. “O, What Is That Sound“—W.H. Auden
8-10. “A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island“—Frank O’Hara
11-13. “Invitation of Miss Marianne Moore“—Elizabeth Bishop
14. “Beauty“—B.H. Fairchild
Around Campus, Blog, Blog feature, Creative Non-Fiction »
by Jen Ehrlich
You would think that becoming invisible is the hard part. For centuries alchemists, sorcerers, and children have searched in vain for the recipe. They’ve tried spells and potions, chemical equations, and atom manipulations. Countless hours and efforts have gone into failed attempts to reach invisibility. In all these attempts they overlooked the secret. I found it. As a short, unextraordinary thirteen year old girl I found what those searchers had missed. The secret to being invisible is believing so deeply that you don’t deserve to exist that you don’t. This belief is not all that difficult to create. Take one teenage girl, add massive amounts of physical pain, throw in a handful of “world class” doctors declaring that her illness is all in her head and, voilà, you’ve got a recipe for either insanity or invisibility. I chose invisibility.
It was bright. Under the glaring supermarket lighting I squinted, reading labels on the pastas. Buitoni, that was the brand I wanted, but there were so many choices: herb chicken tortellini, wild mushroom angolotti, four cheese ravioli, three cheese ravioli; wasn’t it all just dough and dairy? Did it really matter if the factory cut the pasta into a circle, square, or crescent moon? All I cared about was picking the pasta that would irritate my stomach the least and get me out of there.
It was the day before Thanksgiving, and the Pacific Palisades Ralph’s Market was rowdier and less civilized than many of the football games that would be played on the big day. Keeping my head down to avoid eye contact, arms clutched protectively around my gut, I grabbed two boxes of the four cheese ravioli and shuffled away. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye; I worried that they would see through me. I thought that my failure must be visible. I was sure that something about my fat, swollen legs and rumpled sweatpants screamed, “Failure in Aisle 12.”
I had just been expelled from 9th grade for being too sick to attend class and yet here I was out in the world. Sick people can’t go the supermarket, right?
I knew that my blood had been replaced with lead, that the florescent lights stung my eyes like bees, that my stomach had claw marks inside it and my head was cracking. I knew that at any moment I might faint from the effort of walking the aisles. But no one else knew. And I was walking with them. So in a way I agreed with the disdain I imagined every other shopper felt for me. I didn’t “look sick” so how could I claim that I was? By walking around in public, out of bed, I aided the prosecution team of my doctors and my father, who said I was faking this illness, that it was in my head. I didn’t even need an opposing counsel; I prosecuted and defended myself.
“You are not sick,”
“Yes I am, it hurts more than I can stand.”
“But you’re out in public, buying pasta. You can’t be sick.”
“But I AM.”
“No. It’s true. It has to be!”
I wanted to cover my ears, but what good does that do when the shouting is in your head? I couldn’t explain why I didn’t look sick. I couldn’t tell the teachers or doctors or Dad what was wrong with me. I couldn’t prove that it wasn’t in my head, but I knew it wasn’t—or I hoped it wasn’t.
Imagine an apple. You know it’s an apple. You can see, smell, touch, and taste that it’s an apple. You are one hundred percent sure that it’s an apple. But what if everyone you knew insisted, “Nope, that’s a kiwi.” At first you’d think, “that’s lunacy, you’ve all gone mad!” They keep insisting, however; parents, teachers, doctors, friends, relatives, all insist the fruit is a kiwi. You would be indignant, of course, and angry, furious even, but how long before you began to question yourself? How long would you keep trusting that you actually knew? How long would you be convinced that it was an apple and not a kiwi?
Now, imagine that you are thirteen years old, and the issue is not an apple but your own body. So much is changing anyway that you can’t say for sure what’s normal anymore. How long you would trust yourself if every day you were told that the pain and sickness you thought you were experiencing wasn’t real, that you were faking illness, that you were lying to yourself, that you “just need to snap out of it?” Whom would you trust: the authority figures in your life or yourself? This was my mental state in the supermarket. This was the mental state I lived in.
And so, to escape these questions I couldn’t answer and the accusations that I knew were all around me, I made no eye contact. I separated myself from the world as much as I could.
Humans have long been dismissing women’s medical maladies as unfortunate attributes of their sex. The ancient Egyptians blamed the female womb for causing many behavioral problems, Hippocrates warned of the “stifling of the womb” resulting in extraordinary nervousness and pathology, and Victorians were obsessed with the “psychological” sources of female ailments. The Victorians went on to proclaim that hysteria was not only the result of excess emotion, but a ploy by women to receive more care and attention. Women were inherently vulnerable to hysteria due to their “hereditary weakness” and emotionality. Even literature is replete with examples of hysterical nervous women. From Bertha Rochester’s madness to Mrs. Bennett’s “poor nerves,” women have for centuries been seen as fragile beings with fragile minds.
Though the “hysteria” diagnosis isn’t often invoked by modern physicians, that doesn’t mean they don’t still silently embrace it. It’s been replaced with more politically correct terms such as, “phantom pain,” “hypochondriac,” “irritable bowel syndrome,” “chronic fatigue” and “depression”—terms that assign a dismissive label to an enigmatic problem pigeon-holed as “psychosomatic.”
I didn’t believe that my symptoms were “all in my head.” I wasn’t “depressed,” given that the only thing that made me sad was being sick more and more of the time. Yet, there was a part of me that wondered. They were the experts, the adults, the teachers and doctors. What if they were right? What if I couldn’t be fixed because it was my mind and not my body that was broken? I was like the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. I began physically ill, sure that I was sick, and that doctors were the experts who could cure me. But once I realized they didn’t know how or had no intention of healing me, I crumbled a little. I was furious not to be listened to—but more importantly, I was confused. I had never lied before. Never been in trouble. Never been grounded or given detention. I had never skipped school or clubs or even a homework assignment. How could they accuse me of doing this on purpose when that was not who I was? Their theories were lunacy, but they were “physicians in high standing,” and I was just a girl whose inability to heal was a personal failing. I knew I was right, but I worried I was wrong. Whom can you trust when they say you are the liar? And so, unlike Gilman, instead of focusing intensely on the wallpaper of my medically induced prison, I focused on survival. I survived by not trusting anyone, not even myself. I detached from the world and the people in it. I hid in my music and books and TV shows. I couldn’t argue with my accusers in any real way, I had no objective evidence for my case, no broken bones, no ugly growths, no test results; so I just went quiet. I focused on simply staying alive, and in the process I became invisible.
There’s a funny thing that happens to you when you get called a liar and lazy and weak over and over again as a teenage girl. It’s as if someone takes a giant eraser and every time you’re dismissed that way a bit of you gets erased: wiping away the joy that bubbled from you every morning at school, and when Mom met you at the bus stop; draining the playfulness that allowed you to make toys out of a bar of soap and invent games out of thin air. The eraser wipes away the urge to talk to everyone, at all times, to talk so much that Mom could predict an airplane trip’s pleasantness based on whether or not my seatmate would chat with me. I had been a bright, colorful, blur of motion and sound who believed so strongly in magic that I leapt from a second story balcony to fly because, “Dumbo did it and he is way fatter than me so I can fly too!” But with each accusation and dashed hope of diagnoses that girl slipped away. My permanent smile was cleaned off like a dirt smudge and all that was left was a pale shadow.
As the pain increased I vanished more and more. I missed three months of school was and was no longer a part of my group of friends. They still let me stand with them, making a hole for me in the circle of gossip, but I was apart. I was fighting a war that they didn’t even know existed. I walked the hallways of school but was fading away. I was escaping to the fantasy lands in my head where there was no pain, no illness. Finally, in the fall of 9th grade I pushed too far. I missed too much school; the headmaster sat down my parents and told them I was expelled. None of my friends called to ask where I went. And I—a high schooler without a school, a teenager without friends, a perfectionist who was far from perfect—I began to disappear.
I wrote my first poem:
A ghost walking
I feel dead
Disappearing as I tread
I was a ghost. And as the world around me grew more distant, the world of movies and music and books became more tangible. “Disappear here,” a road sign offers Clay, the coked out and drifting protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero, and that’s what I wanted, to disappear. To run away from the thoughts of failure and betrayal and hopelessness. I wasn’t in school. I could barely get out of bed without passing out. I was fourteen years old and my body was falling to pieces. There was no hope, there was only escape to nothing.
I was running from myself. I was a fraud. I didn’t deserve to be alive, not like this. Walking through the Ralph’s supermarket that day before Thanksgiving, I was a caught between two worlds: the world of the healthy, normal people and the world of the sick and invisible. I wasn’t healthy enough to go to school, but I wasn’t sick enough to be diagnosed.
I should be in school. I had to be in school. But I couldn’t be in school. I was a disgrace. I was broken but unable to prove it. So I kept my head down, too ashamed to make eye contact with anyone except Mom—who always believed in me even when I could not—for fear that they would see my guilt, would see the lie that I didn’t see myself. With my new iPod earphones blasting, I listened to the only truth I knew:
And I don’t want the world to see me
‘Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
Yes, it was Goo Goo Dolls. It was cliché. It was 90s, it was more real to me than the people around me or the ludicrously early Christmas carols on the supermarket speaker. I wasn’t bleeding, but I ought to have been. Maybe if I were bleeding someone would believe me. If I had blood pouring out maybe they would listen. But I was too afraid to cut myself. Physical pain was the problem and I didn’t want any more. I didn’t want to hurt more, I wanted to hurt less. If it could just stop hurting everything could go back to the way it was supposed to be. But the hurting wasn’t stopping and so I tried to disappear or I did disappear; I don’t know which came first.
It’s not hard to become invisible. All it really takes is losing what you care most about, and the ability to talk to the people you love. Dad didn’t believe I was sick. Lisa didn’t believe I was sick. My grandparents and uncles and cousins didn’t believe I was sick. I couldn’t convince them. I tried and after many tears I gave up. My friends didn’t understand and once I dropped out of school they never called or emailed or visited me. I vanished. I didn’t even talk to Mom much anymore; what was there to say? I had no school, no friends, and no father—as I saw it, I had lost it all. It’s not difficult to become invisible. You don’t need a cloak or a ring, no potions or mind tricks, no fussing with electromagnetism here. Just lose everything and keep living.
The tricky part is not becoming invisible; it’s learning how to reverse it, how to return to reality. The true test came when I was diagnosed, treated, and healing. The greater battle came when I returned to the real world, slowly shedding my invisibility cloak. The shock of being out in the world again, of looking up at the faces around me, of making eye contact and smiling as I once did, was jarring. Walking on the street and hearing someone call, “Jen,” I still don’t look up. They can’t be calling me, ghosts don’t get hailed. And yet I hear the calls. I see familiar faces and they smile at me, nod, sometimes even rush up and offer hugs. And I love it, and it feels right, and it’s me—but it’s still strange. When you spend six years being invisible, it’s disorienting to step out of the darkness. It’s hard to walk the quad and hear my friends call my name and know they are talking to me. It’s strange to walk a hallway and make eye contact. I was so used to being invisible that I spent much of freshman year adjusting to being seen. To being legitimate. To having a place I belonged that no one could take from me.
Once I was admitted, Stanford’s logo became my blanket. It allowed me to go out in public with my head held up. No longer did I have to answer dental assistants and bookstore clerks’ innocent questions of “where do you go to school,” with “nowhere.” No longer did I have to sit through doctors appointments and explain that no I wasn’t in school right now but that had no bearing on my stomach pain or headache. Now when the well-meaning physicians go through their “holistic” list of questions not only do I have a school, but I get to say Stanford. Because as silly as it is, the world cares. A lot. Saying I go to Stanford gives me the legitimacy and power I lacked as a teenager. It means that I can’t be a complete looney toon—or if I am, at least I’m a smart one. It means that even when I’m in the hospital with mysterious symptoms, the nurses treat me better, the doctors talk to me and not at me. I have traded my invisibility cloak for a royal robe. And it’s ludicrous but it’s powerful. It’s wonderful but strange. Shifting reality inward was easy, shifting it out again is hard.
 Crimlisk, Helen M., and Maria A. Ron. “Conversion Hysteria: History, Diagnostic Issues, and Clinical Practice.” Cognitive Neuropsychiatry 4, no. 3 (1999): 165-80. August 1, 1999. Accessed February 7, 2014. http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.stanford.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=5caea481-bd4b-4a03-85b1-004a22d70c55%40sessionmgr111&vid=2&hid=119.
Blog, Blog feature, Creative Writing, From the Editors, Poetry »
by Irene Hsu
One day, I came to a sudden realization that my poems stem from my thoughts stem from my reading stem from the writers stem from their thoughts stem from their reading…and so on so forth.
I’ve always felt that poets are graced (and charged) with the responsibility the residue their work will leave. That is, I can recite only a few poems word by word from heart, but everything I read lingers like an aftertaste. The lingering may be a stanza, a line, or just a word. It may not even be related to the poem as a whole, but there’s nothing I—or the poet—can do about it after I’ve been exposed to their imagination, which had been exposed to others’ imaginations.
But there is beauty and significance in the things that linger in our memories. If stanzas and lines and words are stars, then what we create and imagine are constellations. And thus, my concept of poetry mash-ups is a tribute to the mantra, “Everything is a remix.”
+ + +
a plate of pears,
the papery flushed skin in my hand.
they were delicious
and so cold
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is
true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul?
It is all static, crackling
like shirts on the line.
1. “Living in Sin“—Adrienne Rich
2. “The Pomegranate“—Eavan Boland
3-6. “This is Just to Say“—William Carlos Williams
7-9. “Why I Am Not a Painter“—Frank O’Hara
10-11. “Ave Maria“—Frank O’Hara
12-13. “The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart“—Gabriella Calvocoressi
Tags: Irene Hsu
Blog, Blog feature, Creative Writing, Poetry »
by Sarah Sadlier
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
But wherefore do not you a mightier way:
To me, fair friend, you never can be old.
But how can I return in happy plight
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see
What power hast thou this powerful might:
Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me.
My love is as a fever, longing still
(If it were, it bore not beauty’s name);
Your love and pity doth the impression fill:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame.
Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
But do thy worst to steal thyself away?
lines from Sonnet 18, Sonnet 73, Sonnet 16, Sonnet 104, Sonnet 28, Sonnet 43, Sonnet 150, Sonnet 132, Sonnet 147, Sonnet 127, Sonnet 112, Sonnet 129, Sonnet 34, and Sonnet 92Tags: Sarah Sadlier