Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Critical Analysis of Hunger in New York City

Simon J. Ortiz sentimentally expresses his deep sense of connection to “mother earth” and his responsibility to his culture in his poem, Hunger in New York City. At first glance, the poem’s simple title easily leads to misinterpretation. As a reader, one might imagine images of starving people on New York City’s street corners or people in line for food. While this conjecture might accurately apply to the title of the poem, Ortiz takes hunger and turns it in to something much deeper.
The poem begins with the origins of hunger. According to the author, hunger comes: “from somewhere out of your muscles, or concrete or the land, or the wind pushing you.” Ortiz uses the verb crawl to describe how hunger sets in. Hunger does seem to silently seep into a person’s awareness. It’s a slow process that builds and creates an increasingly noticeable sensation. Ortiz observes that the origin of hunger comes from something deep inside you; from “out of your muscles.” This links to Ortiz’s background from the Acoma Pueblo culture that he is so passionately connected to. The Acoma Pueblo people embody the sense of family and tradition. They are an ancient culture that has been preserved from one generation to the next. Ortiz’s history in his Native American roots has developed a strong sense of identity and connection with his past.
The second stanza explains that hunger asks not only for food, but for “words, wisdom, young memories, of places you ate at, drank cold spring water, or held somebody’s hand, or home of the gentle, slow dances, the songs, the strong gods, the world you know.” These other things that hunger asks for are expressed almost as needs, as they are listed equally and interchangeably with food which is essential for human survival. Ortiz points out that hunger asks for “the world you know” which is the world that he comes from, his home in Acoma Pueblo. This phrase also points out that New York City is a foreign place to him and the reader gets a sense of the author’s discomfort and unfamiliarity with the city. Ortiz is drawn by the uninviting concrete and wind of the city to a place in his memory where there seems to be peace and comfort, relationships and familiarity. He remarks that hunger searches you out as if to find you and remind you of its presence. The questions that hunger poses in the poem, are like questions that a close family member would ask over a long distance phone call. “How are you, son? Where are you? Have you eaten well? Have you done what you as one of our people is supposed to do?”  These questions make it obvious that the hunger Ortiz explains is not simply a hunger for food. The personified hunger that Ortiz describes symbolizes his deep longing for his homeland created by his presence in the harsh and unfamiliar environment of New York City. The last question reveals Ortiz’s strong sense of identity and responsibility to his Native American heritage.
            In the next stanza, Ortiz depicts New York City and explains that his hunger cannot truly be satisfied by what the city has to offer. The savage image of concrete, bright lights, polluted air, and noise that he creates leads him to the realization that he cannot be happy there. He states that he has “truthfully and honestly” tried to adapt and find satisfaction in the city but isn’t capable of doing so. The way he details the imagery of the city gives the reader a sense of the author’s resentment toward it. He finds it apparent that the city is not able to satisfy his hunger. In the last stanza it seems as if the author closes their eyes and lifts up a prayer in quiet song. It’s almost as if he understands that even though his current surroundings prove difficult to endure, they are still, deep down, a part of “mother earth.” It would appear that the author asks mother earth to relax him as he is fulfilled with her soul. Ortiz asks mother earth to “make me cool and humble. Bless me.” This resembles a calm and collected plea for peace and reassurance.
            Ortiz’s poem reflects his deep connection with his past and culture. It shows how no matter how far away he may go he cannot escape the hunger that he has for his people. His rich heritage is something that he prides himself in and that he finds peace in. He believes that a person’s past stays with them no matter where they go. Ortiz uses hunger in his poem as a metaphor for the kind of home sickness that a person feels when they are out of place. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Story of how a Wall Stands critical analysis

A Story of how a Wall Stands
“At Aacqu, there is a wall almost 400 years old which supports hundreds of tons of dirt and bones--it's a graveyard built on a steep incline--and it looks like it's about to fall down the incline but will not for a long time.” Simon Ortiz

            Simon Ortiz is a storyteller as well as a poet. Through his poetry, he revels events from the past as well as memories. Ortiz was very close with his family his father included. In the poem A Story of how a Wall Stands, he discusses a time where his father reveled to him traditions, and culture so as to create a new appreciation of over looked objects, history, and events. The poem is about a wall that surrounds a graveyard connected to a Catholic church in Acoma that was built by the Aroma people. Its old and weathered and looks as though it won’t last but this wall is 400 years old and will last a very long time. Ortiz’s father revels to Ortiz that the walls appearance masks a well structured surface. He explains that you need to look past the assumed appearance of something, that the outside may be hiding a deeper meaning then a quick look.
            The poem is of Ortiz’s father building the wall not about the wall that has withstood 400 years. The poem is in present tense so it becomes more of a story instead of a time in history while Ortiz observes. He states,” My father, who works with stone”. The poem is written to be visual. It takes the reader systematically through the process of creating this wall. The father explains that the stone is “Just the part you see, The Stones which seem to be just packed in on the outside”, here he is revealing that you should look past the obvious. The father then says,” Underneath what looks like loose stone, there is stone woven together”, meaning that’s the core of the structure, the part not seen by the eye.
            The poem was written in three stanzas in order from the first step of the building process to the last. First “with his hands puts the stone and mud in place”, second “He ties one hand over the other, fitting like the bones his hands and fingers” his father the explains, “That’s what is Holding is together.” Then he continues to explain, “The mud mixed to a certain texture” he is explaining the detailed process of the technique used to make such a stable structure. He is telling his son why he must do it this way, “So that placed between the stones, they hold together for a long, long time”, meaning there is a reason for the tedious work he is doing. It is important to Ortiz to  hear the explanation of the building of this wall because there is a significant part of history of his people in this wall.
            The building and learning process of the story is very important to Ortiz but the time spent with his father may be more important. Ortiz is showing how story telling is a very important tradition passed on from generation to generation. The story of how this very old wall stands will be passed along. It may be changed or altered but the story’s of the Aroma people will continue to be told for many years to come. The wall contains more than just stone and mud, it is built with the bones, blood, sweat and tears, of the Aroma people. The significance of this poem is the story it tells. Reading this poem I understood it was a story about this very old wall and that a father was passing the story on to his son but lesson learned there was more to the wall then the poem physically reviled. By learning the whole story about the ancient wall, the poem became more powerful and full of meaning. There was a past reveled through the lines of the poem that from first glance could be mist but under the surface was the real structure.

My Father's Song Critical Analysis

            The poem My Father’s Song, written by Simon J. Ortiz shows us a glimpse of a world far from that of our own. With Ortiz being raised an Acoma Indian many of his poems are based upon the spoken traditions and pieces of wisdom passed down from generation to generation. At first glance the poem appears to be a simple one of a life experience between a boy and his father. Its format and wording as well as use of repetition give it a sense of simplicity as well as its lack of a complex idea. However this is just the surface of the poem. Many critical articles of the poem My Father’s Song explain it in a few steps.
            First of you take a look at the title. “My Father’s Song” what does the title have to do with the poem. The poem is not about a song in the traditional sense of the word but more about the song of life. The word song is used to mean actions or a way of operating. His father’s song in the poem is his knowledge of the corn field and the care of all life. His actions are a song. My Father’s Song also focuses on a main point in many Indian cultures, the value of all living things and the idea of responsibility and growing up. I felt that the poem was used to explain a lesson between a boy and his father. The father is teaching the boy how to grow up. With the experience of planting corn in the fields show a sense of survival. A man must know how to plant food to be able to eat. The poem also shows a value of life. How a man must know and respect life of those around him both man and animal. This is shown with the mice, and how the father is careful with the small mice as he moves them to a safer and more suiting place to stay alive. And finally the context “And my father saying things” shows to me how is father is talking to him telling him things that he will need to know as a man on his own. With oral tradition having such a high importance in Indian culture it is understandable for an Indian raised poet like Ortiz to take these oral traditions and experiences and apply them to his poetry. With a poem such as My Father’s Song it is evident that Ortiz is remembering his father, and this triggers a memory of an important event or lesson he and his father shared. However in the poem the voice of the father is not used exactly it is shown as a “song” in that it is not told through dialogue but through action and experience.  
            The poem My Father’s Song also shows the ties that the Acoma Indians had with the land. With word usage such as; moist sand and soft damp sand it gives the reader an idea of the connection between nature and one who uses and respects nature. The Acoma Indians and Simon J. Ortiz use oral tradition and poems such as this to share with the rest of the world a view of the life and experience of a Native American Indian. Although a simple poem on the surface, Ortiz is able to pact immense amounts of feeling and tradition into the short poem about his father; in My Father’s Song.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Father's Song

Wanting to say things,
I miss my father tonight.
His voice, the slight catch,
the depth from his thin chest,
the tremble of emotion
in something he has just said
to his son, his song:

We planted corn one spring at Acu-
we planted several times
but this one particular time
I remember the soft damp sand
in my hand.

My father had stopped at one point
to show me an overturned furrow;
the plowshare had unearthed
the burrow nest of a mouse
in the soft moist sand.

Very gently, he scooped tiny pink animals
into the palm of his hand
and told me to touch them.
We took them to the edge
of the field and put them in the shade
of a sand moist clod.

I remember the very softness
of cool and warm sand and tiny alive mice
and my father saying things.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Story of How a Wall Stands

My father, who works with stone,
says, "That's just the part you see,
The stones which seem to be
just packed in on the outside,"
and with his hands puts the stone and mud
in place. "Underneath what looks like loose stone,
there is stone woven together."
He ties one hand over the other,
fitting like the bones of his hands
and fingers. "That's what is
Holding it together."

"It is built that carefully,"
he says, "the mud mixed
to a certain texture," patiently
"with the fingers," worked
in the palm of his hand. "So that
placed between the stones, they hold
together for a long, long time."
He tells me those things,
the story of them worked
with his fingers, in the palm
of his hands, working the stone
and the mud until they become
the wall that stands a long, long time.

Hunger In New York City

Hunger crawls into you
from somewhere out of your muscles
or the concrete or the land
or the wind pushing you.

It comes to you, asking
for food, words, wisdom, young memories
of places you ate at, drank cold spring water,
or held somebody’s hand,
or home of the gentle, slow dances,
the songs, the strong gods, the world
you know.

That is, hunger searches you out.
It always asks you,
How are you, son? Where are you?
Have you eaten well?
Have you done what you as a person
of our people is supposed to do?

And the concrete of this city,
the oily wind, the blazing windows,
the shrieks of automation cannot,
truly cannot, answer for that hunger
although I have hungered,
truthfully and honestly, for them
to feed myself with.

So I sang to myself quietly:
I am feeding myself
with the humble presence
of all around me;
I am feeding myself
with your soul, my mother earth;
make me cool and humble.
Bless me.

Simon J. Ortiz Biography

Simon J. Ortiz was born on May 27, 1941 in Albuquerque,New Mexico. He was raised in the Acoma Pueblo reservation. Ortiz was very close with his family, his mother, father, and older sister. He was fluent in his native language Aacpumeh dzehni. Ortiz attended the U.S. government McCarty's Day school up until the sixth grade. there he was required to learn and speak English. When Ortiz was young he didn't see himself  as a poet but as a singer/song writer. Ortiz was very successful in high school. He Keeped journals and read all the time. During the 1950's it was difficult to be an ambitious Native American. The greatest opportunity's offered to them where to learn a trade and find a job. After his graduation in 1960 Ortiz went to work in mining. Ortiz spent time in the military during the 60's. He attended several colleges, including Ft. Lewis College, University of New Mexico, and the University of Iowa. Since then he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and taught at various institutions. Ortiz has three daughters and is divorced from his wife, Marlene and recently recovering from alcoholism. Ortiz is now living in Deetseyamah, New Mexico.