Saturday, November 2, 2013

Playwright (Susan Glaspell)

Susan Glaspell (Source:


An award-winning American playwright, actress, novelist and journalist, Susan Glaspell was an Iowan born. Davenport to be precised. She was born on 1h of July 1876. Susan Glaspell was awarded the Pulitzer Award for her drama. Also known for her feminist view, she is one of the most significant figure of the American female playwrights. Her most known feminist work called 'Trifles' is one of the example of her feminist views.

As a child, Susan Glaspell received her early education in the Davenport Public school and surely enough, she was one of the best student there was in her school. She eventually attended Drake University at the age of 21. After her graduation, she work as a full-time reporter for a newspaper company.

Her works mostly influenced by her place of birth and stories told by her grandmother. Susan Glaspell was married to George Cram Cook, a poet, novelist, professor and a farmer, who was also the man responsible for some of her works. She was awarded the Pulitzer Award for Drama for her play 'Alison's House'. She died at the age of 72 on 27th July 1948. Below are some of her well-known and amazing other works: -

- Trifles (A Jury of Her Peers) 1917
- The Outside (1917)
- Alison's House (1930)

- Fidelity (1915)
- The Morning Is Near Us (1939)

Short Stories
- A Jury of Her Peers (1917)
- The Road to the Temple (1926)

 I have chosen 'Trifles' for this blog simply because I found this drama/short story to be rather interesting and shows the feminist side of Susan Glaspell. And to be frank, I am familiar with the text. Below is the summary of the story:-


 Trifles tells the audience about a murder case happened in a house presumably in a rural area as suggested  in the story (barn, few telephone service, etc). The story itself sets in the kitchen of a house where Mr. Wright (the victim) was killed. His wife, Minnie/Mrs Wright was arrested as one of the suspects. The story started when Mr. Hale, neighbor came for a visit to make a phone call. When Mr. Hale got inside the house and asked for Mr. Wright from Mannie, she said he has died. A sheriff and a county attorney were called to solve the case. Along with them, the sheriff's wife, Mrs. Peter and the Mrs Hale the wife of the neighbor.

While the men investigated the house, the women sat in the kitchen. The men often criticized the women whether it is about Minnie or women society as a whole such as the poor homemaking skills of Mannie to the things Mrs Peter and Mrs Hale have picked up and said. The men effort in finding the evidence proved to be fruitless while the ladies have found vital clues and evidence that lead to the case such as the preserves fruits, bread outside the box, the nervously sewn quilt, empty and busted bird cage, etc. The ladies decided not to tell the men about their findings. 


The story is clearly a mock for the men and shows the audience the what women are capable of. This is shown in the efforts of the men solving the case where their search came to nothing whereas the women (Mrs Peter and Mrs Hale) solved the case just by sitting in kitchen. The men (Sheriff and County Attorney) found nothing in the kitchen as shown in this evidence, "Nothing here but kitchen things". This sentence shows that the men are degrading the women as kitchen utensils are synonyms to the women. Just like the men overlooked everything in the kitchen, it can be equalized on how the men see the women in this story.

The birdcage and the bird symbolized both Minnie's freedom and her old self. The birdcage symbolized the life that she is currently living in (her marriage) and the bird is her old self where the text stated that she was once a lively woman with beautiful voice just like the bird. When Mr. Wright killed the bird, he actually 'killed' a part of Minnie. Little that Mr. Wright know, Minnie could have taken his action as the last straw and decided to take his life as well. Although it was never mentioned who was the murderer in the story, the clues/evidence found in the story suggested Minnie had a strong motive to commit the murder.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trifles by Susan Glaspell (Questions)


2. What clues lead the women to conclude that Minnie Wright killed her husband? 

 The clues are:-

- The ruined preserves fruits

- The left out load of bread

- The nervously sewn quilt

- Half clean/messy table

- The broken birdcage and the bird 

The first four clues indicate that Mrs. Wright/Minnie Wright was feeling uneasy. Take note that these clues are sign of unfinished task/chores/activity which could indicate Minnie Wright was having a psychological problem in her life or marriage. The text suggested that Minnie became unhappy with her marriage. She was once portrayed as a cheerful lady. 

"She [Minnie Wright]- come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself - real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and - fluttery. How - she - did - change."

The broken birdcage was a sign of force. The text suggested that the birdcage might be busted by John Wright. John Wright do not fancy things that sings and brought joy as indicated in the text hence explain his actions towards the birdcage and bird. The bird is the symbol of Minnie Wright's freedom and in a way her old self (joyful/have lovely singing voice). The death of her bird may indicates that a part of her was taken away and may be one of the causes of murder. 

3. How do the men differ from the women? from each other?

 The men in Trifles are portrayed as the antagonist of the story. The men characters looked down at the women. Make fun of the things the women have picked up, their poor homemaking skills and the things they talked about. They were to egoistic to take account of the women's discoveries as one of the possible evidences. The men overlooked the minor details or evidence that the women have found just by sitting in the kitchen where the men insist that there were nothing in the kitchen that would contribute to the investigation.

The women characters could relate emotionally towards Minnie Wright more than the men could. They see the little details or trifles as the title suggested as an important clue or hint. They could feel the sorrow Minnie Wright felt for example the feeling of "stillness" as experienced by Mrs. Peter where she has lost her child much like Minnie has lost her bird which is dear to both of these female characters.  Ironically, the women might have been portrayed as the "real investigator" in this play.

There are actually not much of a difference in the men characters in Trifles apart from their age. The Sheriff is describe as a middle-age man. As for the County Attorney, a much younger man. Their attitude or behavior are relatively the same - sexist towards women. Same can be said with Mr. Hale where he stated, "Well, women are used  to worrying about trifles.".

 4. What do the men discover? Why do they conclude "Nothing here but kitchen things"?

Most of the discoveries found by the men are through the statements of Mr. Hale the neighbor of John Wright which does not help much or anything with the case. Apart from that, they did discovered that the the piece of clothes are "knot" instead of "quilt" which too discovered by the women. What the men have missed is that, the term "knot" stated by the ladies may have been a clue on how the murder was carried out. 

The men are actually being sexist towards women when they concluded "Nothing here but kitchen things". It is a remark on women's ranking in the society as these "kitchen things" are usually associated with women (at least in this play). Much like the low ranking of the women in the men' s eyes, they "kitchen things" can be equalized to the women. This may also may be one of the reasons why the men overlooked the evidences that the women found in the kitchen.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Date with a Literary Scholar (Refaat Alareer)

 "You have to love poetry to write poetry" (Refaat Alareer, 2013)

With Mr Refaat Alareer (Guy in plain blue shirts) Photo by: Amy Amilia (Thanks!)

Today (21st October 2013) me and my classmates were fortunate enough to meet a Literary Scholar from Gaza, Palestine - Refaat Alreer. He produced some terrific poems mostly revolved on war that is happening in his hometown. Apart from being a poet (although he insisted that he is not much of a poet), he is also a lecturer in a university in Palestine. What can be concluded in his works are, he regularly used metaphors and simile in his works. His works are easy enough to understand and yet gives a huge impact to the audience.

"The are 5 universities in Palestine but usually we [the Palestinians] go to Egypt to further our studies" said Mr. Refaat. 

He started the meeting by introducing himself and gave a brief history about his hometown and the occupancy that is currently happening there. He mentioned that the occupation started roughly 100 years ago where before the then, Palestine consist of the Arabs and Jews. It all started when England wanted to give the Jews a piece of land and unfortunate enough, it is Palestine. In 1946 Israel occupied Palestine. Day by day, the land that was known as Palestine is occupied by the Israeli. As a result, the Palestinians are having difficulties traveling from one place to another in Palestine. They have to go through numerous checkpoints which took a long time where in Mr. Refaat experience, he waited for a month to go through from one checkpoint to another just to get to his destination. Below is a homemade video/documentary entitled "5 Broken Cameras" by Emad,  recommended by Mr. Refaat about the occupancy in Palestine.

Surely enough, the Palestinians had enough and started to fight back. Some with guns, some with rocks and of course with words or to be precised poetry and articles. Mr. Refaat is no exception. He was also drawn to write poetry in response to the occupancy. Mr Refaat mentioned that there are not much of male poets in Palestine. It seems like this matter has caught him in a way. He also ask himself and the class:- 

"Why women write more than men in Palestine?"

He also stated that most poets in Gaza were inspired by a young poet named Tamim Bargouti. Mr. Refaat was kind enough to recommend us (the students) with some of the best poets and their works. Below are some of them.

 Famous Poet (Arabic language)
- Mahmoud Darwish
- Tamim Bargouti 

Famous Poet (English language)
- Rafeef Ziadah (We Teach Life, Sir)
- Susan Abulhawa (Wala!*)
- Remi Kanazi

Mr. Refaat has encouraged us to write an online journal/blog and feel free to write anything that we feel into it. Listen to tracks and poetry recitals from any source including Youtube. Pay attention to our surroundings. Even the smallest thing could turn into a brilliant idea. Some people carry a small notebook everywhere there go just in case they 'stumble' upon an idea but of course, this is a 21st century time, using your smartphones is just as good. Although he is a lecturer, he also learned from his students. From what he had told us, I could see that he has a wonderful relationship with his students.

Mr. Refaat in 'action' :)

One of my favorite poems by Mr. Refaat Alareer is entitled "And We Live On.." . Apparently, it is also one of Mr. Refaat's favorites. Seeing that I love war poetry, I could see how I could relate to him considering all the war he has written and experinced. He mentioned that the reason he like this poem is because there are a lot of metaphors and similes in it.  Below is the poem:-

And We Live On.. (by Refaat Alareer)

And another day in Gaza

Another day in Palestine

A day in prison

And we live on

Despite Israel’s very much identified flying objects

That we see more than our family and friends

And despite Israel’s death sentences

Like lead

Cast upon the head

As we sleep

Like acid rain

Gnawing at our life

Clinging to it like a flea to a kitten

And stuffed in our throats

The moment we say ‘Amen’

To the prayers of old women and men

Despite Israel’s birds of death

Hovering only two meters from our breath

From our dreams and prayers

Blocking their ways to God.

Despite that.

We dream and pray,

Clinging to life even harder

Every time a dear one’s life

Is forcibly rooted up.

We live.

We live.

We do.


I must say, listening to the poem being recite by the very man who wrote it before my eyes gave me the goosebumps. Listening to his voice I could feel the 'power' of the poem considering it is written based on a true story not to mention the poet own experience. As said by Mr. Refaat, Palestinians are always haunted by the thought of death and this statement adds the imagery in my mind and it helped me see what he wanted me to see through his experience. Just like most of his poems, Mr. Refaat usually includes three elements in his poetry. They are:-

- Dialogue
- Performance/Drama
- Palestine (Of course) 

Other poems that you might be interested in written by Refaat Alreer are:-

- If I must die
- Over the Wall
- I am You
- Freshly Baked Souls

 Do visit Refaat Alreer's blog at:  

*a degrading word/expression used to address a boy

Friday, October 11, 2013

War Poems (WW1 to Contemporary)

War. Nothing is alien about it anymore. the word itself seems to be carved onto our lips as if it is cursed. As many poems are written in response to a certain historical events, war poems are no exception. A great number of poems have been written for the past decades significantly from WW1 until now. 

When talking about WW1 (1914-1918), Alfred Edward Salter Owen (1893-1918) may be considered as one of the most significant poets. Although Alfred Owen himself is a soldier, he latter found out that he is against war as what he saw was nothing but gruesome sights. His remarkable works entitled Dulce Et Decorum Est is about a speaker (presumably soldier) that shares his experience on the battlefield. The text suggested that nothing is normal on the battleground and seeing his comrades died in front of him is an unbearable thought.

Wilfred Owen (Picture source:

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.


GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.


If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

( Poem source: )

Other WW1 poets and their poem that you may be interested/considered:-

- Rupert Chawner Brooke (1887-1915) "Fragment"
- Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) "How to Die"
- William Noel Hodgson (1893-1916) "Before Action"
- Wilfred Gibson (1878-1962) "Back"

WW2 (1939-1945) also known as the Second World War that formed two sides which are The Allies and Axis. There a lot of poems written by both sides but just like most poems, they are also about how the soldiers wish the war would just stop as they had enough having bullets for breakfast everyday. One of the best WW2 poets is Keith Castellain Douglas (1920-1944) who died during the D-Day at Normandy. His poem entitled How to Kill is one of my personal favorites and also considered as one of the best poems of WW2.

Keith Douglas (Picture Source:

How to Kill

Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.


Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
Now. Death, like a familiar, hears


And look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the waves of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.


The weightless mosquito touches
Her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.

( Poem source: ) 

Other WW2 poets and their poem that you might considered:-

-  Sir Herbert Read (1893–1968) "To A Conscript Of 1940"
- Konstantin Simonov (1915-1979) "Wait for Me"
- Frank Gibbons "A Beach in France"

Contemporary War usually related to the wars happening in the Middle Eastern countries and some part of Africa such as the massacre in Nigeria. To me war has lost its value. Peace and salvation are no longer the objective but merely an excuse to satisfy ones desire and greed. Nevertheless, the poems written in this period is not to be taken lightly compared to the old days' (WW1-WW2). The poems still retain its value in expressing emotions as it supposed to in any poems. One poem that caught my intention is entitled Fiance in Afghanistan written by Abi Townsend. The poem suggested that the speaker wish the war will end soon and the speaker love one will return to her/him.

Fiancé in Afghanistan

Step by step they take great care,
Fear and frightened eyes red with despair,

Shock and horror to hear “Man Down”,
So many soldiers fall to the ground,

Yet one by one they struggle through,
Scared and thinking he may not pull through,

Soaring temperatures are rapidly rising,
Scarce special medics is not surprising,

With no mercy just bitter aggression,
Shooting the injured is the Taliban’s mission,

Please save our partners, family and friends,
Bring this war to its final end,

Our hero, our soldier, their brother, their friend,
Our honour is with you as you battle the end,

Back at home we will wait alone,
To hear you slightly on the phone,

Unsettled nights and shattered dreams,
Imaging all those nasty scenes,

R&R I hope is soon,
To have our candle lit dinner under the moon,

Come and gone now back to war,
To fight the Taliban and find their core,

Wrapping parcels and special gifts,
The happiness it brings and the joy it lifts,

To all the soldiers that made through the tour,
Solute to those with us no more,

No game or sport can compete,
The strength our soldiers go to defeat,

Queen or president the fact still remains,
Our soldiers out there is just insane.

(Poem source:

Do consider these poets and their poem:- 

- Bill Mitton "Young Sons"
- John Bailey "Taking a Stand"
- Ibukun Babarinde "Elegy for Jos"

Friday, October 4, 2013

What is Poetry and Drama?

What is poetry?

Poetry is a form of literary art intended to express oneself in sense of emotions, thoughts, ideas or pretty much anything that could be expressed. What sets poetry apart from other forms of written arts is/are the stanza(s). It does not necessarily have to rhyme, it could be written in a free form even. Regardless, there are also well constructed forms of poetry. Below are some of the form and terms in poetry:-

Acrostic - The first letter of each line spells out a word, name, or phrase when read    vertically

Ballad - narrative song passed down orally

Ballade - consists of three eight-line stanzas and a four-line envoy, with a rhyme scheme of ababbcbc bebc

Couplet - A pair of rhyming lines

Elegy - Melancholy poem that laments the subject’s death but ends in consolation

Epic - A long poem that tells about heroism

Haiku - Three unrhymed lines in five, seven, and five syllables

Octave - An eight-line stanza or poem

Sonnet - A 14-line poem with a variable rhyme scheme

Stanza - A group of lines

For more form of poetry and poetry terms, do visit :-

Below is one of the earliest poems that I fell in love with. It was written by Konstantin Simonov entitled Wait for Me (1941) for his lover Valentina Serova when he was summoned to the battlefield in the WWII:-

Konstantin Simonov

to Valentina Serova

Wait for me, and I'll come back!
Wait with all you've got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer's hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don't arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I'm alive.

Wait for me, and I'll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend -
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I'll come back,
Dodging every fate!
"What a bit of luck!" they'll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply - you knew how to wait -
No one else but you.

Below are some of the best poems ever created throughout the history of mankind:-

- Beowulf by unknown (as the poem has been passed down orally and altered)
- Whoso list to hunt by Sir Thomas Wyatt
- When We Two Parted by Lord Byron
- To My Wife - With a Copy of My Poems by Oscar Wilde
- The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Success is Counted Sweetest by Emily Dickinson
- No Second Troy by William Butler Yeats
- All the World's a Stage by William Shakespeare
- The Nightingale by William Wordsworth 

What is Drama?

Drama is a performing art usually performed on stage by actors before the audience. The history could be traced back to the Greek which the term ‘Drama’ originated from. The term itself means ‘action’ which explains the performance on the stage. Some of the major dramas throughout the history are:-

- Hamlet by Shakespeare
- The Alchemist by Ben Jonson
- Doctor by Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

There are various histories of drama coming from all around the world such as from Classic Greek, Asian drama, Classic Roman, Medieval, and probably the most noticeable during the Elizabethan and Jacobean era where Shakespeare arts were blooming.   Each of these dramas has their own unique and distinct features and elements.

There are a lot of forms of drama. Some of them are:-

Combination of theatre and music originated from the Greek and still being practised until now.

 A form of drama that emphasised on reminders, doing good deeds and such and using stock characters is usually the main ingredient in making this sort of drama.

Creative drama
A drama that focused on educational elements intended for children as the audience.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Turtle Soup by Marilyn Chin

Marilyn Chin

 Turtle Soup

You go home one evening tired from work,
and your mother boils you turtle soup.
Twelve hours hunched over the hearth
(who knows what else is in that cauldron).

You say, "Ma, you've poached the symbol of long life;
that turtle lived four thousand years, swam
the Wet, up the Yellow, over the Yangtze.
Witnessed the Bronze Age, the High Tang,
grazed on splendid sericulture."
(So, she boils the life out of him.)

"All our ancestors have been fools.
Remember Uncle Wu who rode ten thousand miles
to kill a famous Manchu and ended up
with his head on a pole? Eat, child,
its liver will make you strong."

"Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice."
Her sobbing is inconsolable.
So, you spread that gentle napkin
over your lap in decorous Pasadena.

Baby, some high priestess has got it wrong.
The golden decal on the green underbelly
says "Made in Hong Kong."

Is there nothing left but the shell
and humanity's strange inscriptions,
the songs, the rites, the oracles?

Question on Turtle Soup by Marilyn Chin

Exploration of the Text

1. Notice the author's choice of the word "cauldron" in line 4. What images or connections does this word evoke? Why might the author have chosen "cauldron" rather than "pot"?

Cauldron is what usually used by witches to cook their potions of nasty ingredients in. The image that the author tried to portray here might be the idea of the mother cooking that turtle itself is considered witch like act or socially unacceptable to the American culture as seen in this line:- 

(who knows what else is in that cauldron)

The line suggested as if the persona rhetorically questioning what else is in that pot/cauldron and it suggest that the persona is disgusted with things in the cauldron/pot because usually witch is associated of using horrible and disgusting ingredients in making their potions/cooking etc. 

2. Chin refers to "the Wei," "the Yellow",  "the Yangtze." Why does she reference these rivers in China? Why not include the Nile, the Amazon,  or the Mississippi?

It is suggested in the poem that the persona's mother came from the main land and it is easier for the persona to make a point if it is related to something closed and dear to mother instead of something foreign or alien to her.

3. What is the tone of the poem?

The tone may be considered as ridicule.  The 'argument' that happened between the persona and the mother might suggest a few other tones. I may be strict as both of them are standing their ground. As the argument got intense up to the point where it made the mother cries. It may also suggest anger, shown through the argument they had.

Ideas for Writing

1. "Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice." Write about this quote within the context of an immigrant family. What might a family gain or lose by moving to  a new land?

What one may say regarding the stated quote, in the context of an immigrant family are the culture and everything that they ever knew regarding their motherland. One may find it hard to simply forget about their memories back in their motherland, but that is all, just memories. When an individual moved or migrated to another country, they automatically lose their citizenship and that is something big to give and needs a thorough thought put to it. Losing citizenship is one thing, giving up your culture is another big thing to consider. Sure one can still practice their culture in their new land, but will it be socially accepted? For example, Malaysian likes to pay a visit to their closed ones, while in The States, they would regard that action as an inappropriate gesture as one should only come to another home if they are invited.

If we ought to talk about something that the immigrant gain, they may gained a better life abroad, get a good job and settle down. That IF they get the opportunity. Again, using The States as an example, the phases 'America, the Land of Opportunity', 'The Land of the Free', and 'the American dreams' may sound tempting, but those words have been thrown around so much lately that they have come overrated. What has the world witness for the past years in The United States? Immigrant left to rot. Unemployed and a sore eye to the nation hence the outside world. In other word, remember what one gives to gain something else. Is it worth it going through the troubles just one could buy a car that eventually polluted the environment? 

Relating the quote "Sometimes you're the life, sometimes the sacrifice" to the an immigrant family, "Sometimes you're the life.." means the new land that offers new life for the immigrant, new hope and dreams to be achieved while the sacrifice is the culture and identity that one or in this case the family has to give in order to survive in the new land they called home or at least be accepted in the new land. Giving up something that has been thought or familiar to you and adapt or assimilate something that is so contrast to your culture or identity is something to ponder about. In the poem Turtle Soup, the persona's mother came from the Main Land which holds more than 5000 years of civilization while The States is a relatively new land. Adapting to their culture will surely be a challenge to the mother as it is something foreign to her and something that she would not simply forgotten. If one willing to trade his or her culture for another, then by all means, go ahead but if hesitation comes as a big wall of brick, one should ask his/herself, are you ready for this?

Group members : - Yvonne
                             - Izu
                             - Mira