Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Denim Day and Literature

Nicole Santarpia


This weeks readings had a lot in common with my extracurricular activity of the week. I had the pleasure attending Spectrum’s Denim Day lecture on Tuesday, October 12th. The speaker, Kevin, explains to the audience how the LGTB community experiences prejudices in the world we live in. His stories relate heavily to the themes we see in the poems examined this week. These poems included Fleur Adcock’s “The Video”, Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz”, Peter Meinke’s “Untitled”, and Margaret Atwood’s “A Holiday”.

“The Video” by Fleur Adcock is about a young only child names Ceri whose mother had a baby girl names Laura. Ceri watches the birth of the baby, and during this time her father abruptly tells her to “move over a bit” so that he can get just the right angle for his camcorder. This begins Ceri’s feelings of being of disconnection from her family. She then says that her mom became increasingly busy, insinuating that she no longer had time for her. Ceri then watches the tape of Laura’s birth and rewinds it to make her go back in, wishing that her sister was never born because the new baby has disconnected her form her family. These are the same feelings that Kevin described to the crowd, and a gay boy living in a strict Catholic town and household where things were ultra conservative. He said that he has memories of disconnection from his family as early as six years old. His cousins didn’t want to play with him because he was different, and he could never seem to please his father who desperately wanted him to play baseball and actually be good at it. He recalls crying and begging his father to let him stop their backyard practice session. As you can see Kevin and Ceri feel that same disconnection from their families. There were even times when Kevin wished he hadn’t existed and that he could just go away just like Ceri wishes of the baby Laura.

Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” can very similarly describe the relationship between Kevin and his father. In the poem a scene about a young boy and his father is described to the reader. The Father is drunk and seemingly being very rough on his son, and possibly abusing him. Even though this happens the young boy still loves his father and clings to his shirt before he goes to bed. Kevin’s father mentally abused him as he was growing up. He never tried to make any connection with his son. Kevin finally came out to his mother the day before he left for Loyola, and two weeks later received a letter from his father saying that everything was okay and he still loved him, but he has his strict beliefs, and that he hoped this was just a phase and he would find his way back to the path to heaven because currently he was not on it. This is an awful and mentally abusive thing to say to your child, but Kevin accepted it. Kevin looked past this and said you know what my dad still loves me no matter what he says to me deep down I know he still cares for me. Kevin and the little boy in the poem share that kind of connection, their fathers are both abusive in some way and they are able to look past that because they seem to know that deep down no matter how much they hurt them they still love them.

This third poem, “(Untitled)” by Peter Meinke, describes exactly what happens next in Kevin’s relationship with his father. In this poem the author is writing a letter of apology to his son who he “hurt a thousand times”. He says that his son was vulnerable and he just failed to recognize and tell him how great he really was. Kevin receives this same kind of letter after his graduation from graduate school. His father tells him that he is so proud of him and that he should have looked past his being gay long ago and showed him the love he deserved. He told his son that now with pride he calls him Doctor.

This last poem caught me a little bit and I struggled to find a connection. A concept that Margaret Atwood used in her poem “A Holiday” was barbarism. I found the way people treated Kevin throughout his life rather barbaric. People actually had the indecency to call him names like faggot and queer in public. To me these kinds of acts and the discriminations he faced were barbaric, and we as human beings should have better moral character.

As one can see literature always has its ties to what’s going on in society. It just so happened that this week’s poetry “The Video”, “My Papa’s Waltz”, “(untitled)”, and “A Holiday” all has a significant connection to the Denim Day speech I listened to. They all talk about the types of relationships and the progress they made.

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