Monday, March 06, 2006

Lady Lazarus

by Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it

"Is this the poem that inspired Britney's Oops I did it again?"

Just imagine for a moment, in a classroom full of young women just a year or two removed from their high school prom, this balding man nearing his 40th birthday uttering what could be perceived as a creepy tribute to Britney Spears when in fact, he should be pretending to have never heard of her, not to mention her hits.

Thankfully, the instructor of the Creative Writing class did not solicit reaction from the class after the passionate reading of Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath before moving onto Oranges by Gary Soto, and my mouth remained shut while I found myself squirming in my seat.


I don't read poetry.
I don't write poetry.
I don't listen to poetry.
I don't recite poetry
I don't think about poetry.
I don't appreciate poetry.
Oops, did I just write a poem?

Well, let me back up a little here.

Growing up in Korea, I deeply loved literature especially poetry. As a child, I gobbled up every book I could put my hands on, and accumulated for myself a hefty collection of poems by famous Korean poets.

All that changed when we moved to the United States. With just three years to prepare for college, my literary appreciation took a back seat to a full blown crash course in English characterized by rote and dry learning techniques. The college years in the wilderness of barrenness which saw my nose buried in engineering and hardcore science textbooks were the final blow to my love for literature.

First impressions count, not just when it comes to people, but words as well. That most English words were introduced to me as dry scientific technical terms still poses a serious roadblock to literary appreciation. I think in order to be appreciative of literature, you need to feel the language, which is not an easy thing to do for non-native speakers.

Some words cannot be fully translated into another language because of built-in cultural nuances and feelings. I cannot possibly translate, for example, the word "salacious" to a Korean word without compromising certain feelings it evokes. Frequently I say, "I want to hear all the salacious details" of new powerful software development paradigms at high tech conventions. That is how much I love that word.

So I am dropping the Creative Writing course :-(


At March 07, 2006 3:51 AM, Blogger Worried said...

I am sorry, David. It is a beauty that should not have been destroyed in you.

At March 07, 2006 6:00 AM, Blogger A thinker said...

Very sad David!!

I hope maybe you pick it up again someday. . .

At March 07, 2006 6:28 AM, Blogger Bruce said...

I, personally, think you are a very creative writer. I didn't think of you as someone who is full of scientific and technical words, but someone full of humor and insight. And then you write, "I want to hear all the salacious details of new powerful software development paradigms at high tech conventions." Oh well...


At March 07, 2006 12:18 PM, Blogger Jeje said...

Reading through your post, it sounded like you were going to get to the "aha" moment when you finally were able to realize the beauty of poetry and to revitalize the love you once had for creative writing. When you ended it with your decision to drop the class, I was disappointed. Perhaps you're giving up too soon? Or perhaps you should go back to reading Korean poetry in order to cultivate that side of you? Just my thoughts . . .

At March 07, 2006 12:41 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

I was hoping for an happy ending too, but I just couldn't pull a crash course on poetry just for the first assignment.

But I think I will start delving into Robert Frost's poems and see if I can get that cultivate that side of me again.

In the mean time, I still love all the salacious details of new powerful software development paradigms.

At March 07, 2006 1:44 PM, Blogger Oricon Ailin said...

Perhaps you could just go back to reading some poetry and such on your own time. Ease into it, get comfortable with it, and enjoy it. Then, maybe ease yourself back into a creative writing course.

At March 07, 2006 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like many of your readers are sad that you are dropping. It was nice to have you in class, and I hope to see you again someday.

At March 07, 2006 6:25 PM, Blogger Gary Means said...

David, I agree with Bruce. You are a very creative writer. I really enjoy reading what you share. I remember being surprised when I learned that English is not your native-tongue.

As far as the class goes . . . it sounds like you are doing what feels right for David right now. Listen to your heart. (Oh no, I'm sounding like Gandalf or Aragorn).

I think that the same heart which led you to so appreciate poetry in your youth is still alive, but simply expressing itself differently now. Maybe it needs the nurturing your intend to give it. What would happen if you were to find some of the poetry in Korean which spoke to you when you were younger?

One last thing. I hope you don't get down on yourself for dropping the course. Perhaps you can celebrate the fact that you took a risk in the first place? There's something within which prompted you to sign up for that class. Perhaps it just needs a different outlet.

Personally, I think your blog is a great outlet because I get to read it.

At March 07, 2006 7:30 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Thanks everyone.

I do like writing, but somehow the mental block on poetry was a little to much to overcome. It is a workshop in which you exchange your writings with classmates and critique each other. Felt a bit too self conscious to do that.

At March 07, 2006 9:32 PM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

Wait a sec. You lost me. Why are you dropping the creative writing course again? Creativity transcends language barriers, right? I don't know. Anyway, I did learn a new word here, "hafty." I hafty leave now.

At March 07, 2006 9:35 PM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

Ok, you exchange your thoughts here, and on blogs daily. And your stuff is good.

At March 07, 2006 9:38 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Thanks for pointing out the typo. Thanks

At March 08, 2006 7:29 PM, Blogger Jeje said...

One more comment: I can't believe as moving and tragic a poem as Lady Lazarus could remind you of Brittney Spears. I mean, I do see the connection, I just find the connection a little frightening. If I remember the rest of the poem correctly, it's about Sylvia Plath's attempted suicides. Sad.

At March 08, 2006 8:24 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Now you are making me feel bad, Jeje. I tuned out after the instructor read the first two lines as my mind drifted off to Britney.

Had no idea that it was about suicide. You've got me motivated to go back and re-read it.

At March 09, 2006 1:22 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Don't mind what I said about my mind drifting off to Britney. It didn't happen. It never happens.

Okay, it's very late. Just finished up a project. Will pick it up again tomorrow.

At March 10, 2006 8:58 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

Huh. I guess I never realized that English was not your native language.

Anyway, I liked your poem about poetry, and I don't even like poetry! A-.

At March 12, 2006 7:09 AM, Blogger grace said...

I find your writing to be very creative and expressive, not technical. It's too bad that your first experience of the english language was rote and dry.

Personally, I don't like very much poetry, but it seems that rediscovering your childhood love of poetry might be worth exploring.

Nosy questions-- Do you now think in English? How much of your native language have you retained?

Creative writing is the outflow of creative thinking. Personally, I think you're doing great.

At March 17, 2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Elevated said...

Kudos for even trying the class...I think I would rather learn to knit that try to write poetry.


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