My favorite poem in 8th grade

This Alice Notley poem, available in Grave of Light, was in our Scholastic reader in 8th grade and I identified strongly with it.


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2 Responses to My favorite poem in 8th grade

  1. yesisaidyesiwillyes says:

    Here’s the original Tsang Chih, from the 6th Century:

    I was brought up under the stone castle.
    My window opened on to the castle tower.
    In the castle were beautiful young men,
    Who waved to me as they went in and out.

    Notley’s follow-up or follow-through poem has a more explicitly brainy girl, and the girl’s desire is more explicit than the original, although gender exclusion and desire (especially the former) are strong elements in the Tsang Chih.

    Notley’s adds a whole other level with the truckers. The boys are intimidated by her intelligence (that’s all they see), while the truckers (do I read too much into it here?) see it not at all. The truck-drivers are a great addition given the locale; they are a perfect American detail.

    The spelling choice “Mohave” is interesting. It’s the traditional spelling, long ago mostly replaced, on the California side at least (where I think Notley was born) with “Mojave.” Either spelling’s pronounced the same: three syllables (Mo-ha-ve / Mo-ja-ve), the first rhyming with “go,” the second “ha” as in the expletive, the third either “vay” or vee” (either variation acceptable), at your pleasure.

  2. What’s interesting to me about the truckers who see her as they pass, who do not know that she’s smart but merely see her as an attractive young girl, appealed to me when I was younger and in the same situation, but now seem sinister. I mean, they’re passing– they only see her physically. In an ideal world, it’s going to be one of those boys who sees her as “smart” who appreciates all the different aspects of beauty she can offer. My World (the future World, the big World outside that in which her young comrades think she’s smart) is light to the remembered child-self (the projected speaker), but dark to the reader: it’s a world in which women are objectified by random passer-by.

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