This story reminds me of my brother. My brother has never really found a place in life until he found his music. When my brother plays his music though, he really plays, and like how the narrator describes his brother playing, “Sonny’s fingers filled with life, his life. But that life contained so many others” (Baldwin 2566), so too do I see that when my brother plays his guitar. He has the happiest expression on his face and is totally at peace when he is playing. Sonny’s music is the way he connects to life, it means more to him than anything. His brother cannot understand Sonny’s passion or that when Sonny is playing he is truly at peace, because his brother never really listened to him until the end of the story. When “Isabel finally confessed that it wasn’t like living with a person at all, it was like living with sound” (Baldwin 2558), the narrator thinks it’s because Sonny isn’t trying to connect, and he assumes that Sonny is purposefully annoying Isabel and her family. He doesn’t understand what is truly important to Sonny – Sonny’s dream is in music, his life is in music. He is finally happy and all of his worries melt away when he plays. He plays through his life, even the sadness of his parents dying, the racism that his family endured, the suffering that everyone must face. I included a clip of my brother playing the song Happy because it seems to me that Sonny is above anything else when he plays, happy. It is in this song he can connect and become more than a sound, strange as that may be. He has a life in song, he has the voice that attracts the people who would shun him as a drug addict in real life. Nothing matters but what he is doing on stage. The narrator derides his brother, saying that “I didn’t like the way he carried himself, loose and dreamlike all the time” (Baldwin 2558). He doesn’t understand that his brother doesn’t exist fully as himself until he is onstage, playing his music. Sonny doesn’t have a family or a true home – all he has is his music.
The first time I saw Spring Awakening was in Ireland, performed by a small theater group that was made p of mostly local college students. Similar to how SMC is a Catholic influenced school, Ireland is a very Catholic influenced country. However, when I saw this play in Ireland, it was not as censored as it was at SMC. Granted, SMC was performing a play at a school rather than as an actual theater group, but I still think the way it cut out the graphic scenes lessened the play in general. The two main scenes I’m thinking of were the scene n the forest, where Wendla is beaten and and the other is when Wendla and Melchior have sex. Though the beating scene in particular made the play hard to watch and incredibly uncomfortable, it was still an integral part of the play and cutting it out takes away the intention behind it. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable and make the audience squirm; without the beating scene in full, one cannot truly understand just how much Wendla seeks to feel anything, or Melchior’s inability to maintain his carefully controlled and knowledgeable demeanor. Wendla sets him on edge as nothing else can, and it is this scene where he starts to unravel. It’s not masochistic for her as much as it is the ability to feel anything at all; she welcomes the pain because it’s new and it’s something that is pure. The other scene, where the two have sex, also seemed to be somewhat less than it was when I first saw it. It seemed much less intimate and I didn’t feel the actors connecting as well as they might have. That might be solely on the part of the actors, but I still think that it would have been a greater moment if there was a greater depth to the emotion displayed on stage, more passion, and more nudity.
The poem “I Am Waiting” is essentially Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” They are so similar and have the same stylized use of repetition that I really couldn’t think of anything else while I was reading the poem. Ferlinghetti in his poem states repeatedly that “I am waiting,” a line that becomes the chorus as much as Joel’s “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning, since the world’s been turning” is the chorus for his song. Both lines are used often enough that they become a mantra, and even when they are not being read or sung, you know that they are there. They are the powerful force moving through this poem, throughout all of the events that are taking place; there is always that thought in the back of the audience’s mind, that there is something more than just the listing of ideas and people and events.
The listing method was another thing that I found similar between poem and song. Ferlinghetti is listing things that have already happened, but he is waiting for them to happen again. He doesn’t just want the Last Supper, he wants “the Last Supper to be served again” (45), he isn’t expecting the Mayflower, but for “a reconstructed Mayflower” (98), and he is not waiting for something to be born, but for “a new rebirth of wonder” (105). He wants more from his generation than just what has already happened to them. They have contributed nothing but what has already happened, but it is useless to just sit passively by reveling in the past when the future looms so close. There is more than just what has happened because they must move forward constantly, seeking the recreation if not something entirely new.
Joel’s song carries the same notes of waiting for something. As he goes through the lists of what has happened, he is showing that there are inciting events and people that have started the metaphorical fire, started the world. If we just sit around waiting for the world to turn and watch the fires, they will eventually burn out. The only lyric that confuses me is when he says “We didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it,” which seems contradictory to Ferlinghetti’s poem. Ferlinghetti is waiting for something happen, but if you fight the fire that exists in Joel’s poem then essentially you are trying to stop progression. The fire might be incendiary and represent the bad things that happens to people like “hypodermics on the shore, China under martial law,” but it also contains some goodness, like “British Beatle’s mania” and “Brooklyn’s got a winning team.” There’s nothing wrong with moving forward, instead of drifting hopeless and empty in the world.
I enjoyed Ginsberg’s “Howl,” even though I found it really confusing at times. I thought the beginning especially was ambiguous when he states that “I saw the best mind of my generation destroyed by madness,/starving hysterical naked,/dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for/an angry fix” (1-4). I wasn’t sure if the “best minds” that he speaks of are searching for inspiration, or drugs, or an escape. At times it seems like a combination of all three. Finding an escape from the conformity that has gripped America might be the best thing for them, or it might be the worst because then they would be stuck on the outskirts of society, always looking in. The drug culture might consume them to a point where it would be their only inspiration, where they real world would become a façade, and the only reality that which they experienced on a high. The movie’s animations kind of made me think the same thing – the animated world contrasts to such an extreme with the real solid world of lawsuits and order. In the animation, there is no set pattern, and there are no laws or rules to confine the characters that we see. They are truly free in the lines of the poem, they have endless opportunities to break away and do something new and innovative. What I thought was interesting about the film was how at times the animation seemed to be reminiscent of some incredibly well-known pieces of art. These paintings are inspiring and incredibly complex pieces of art, that challenge the norm of society. I only recognized two within the animations that I felt I could put a name to, (Starry Night and Crucifixion), however I felt certain that there were also images of realism that contrasted against impressionism, as well as fragmented images that seemed reminiscent of the image we looked at when reading William Carlos Williams.
Van Gogh-Starry Night-7:39
“Who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley,
death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock
and endless balls” (23-26)
Salvador Dali – Crucifixion