Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Writing Through The Hunger of Tayé Foster Bradshaw

I was going to write about something else today, but as my Modern and Contemporary Poetry class ended yesterday and I received the feedback of our final assignment, thought I would post it here today.

Next week is that food fest we call Thanksgiving.  It is when my husband will drive down to Alabama to bring home my youngest son, when my elderly aunt and clan will be in Atlanta for fellowship, when families from near and far will gather together to fellowship, and eat.

Yet for some, for many, there will be no turkey and all the fixings, no pound cake, no greens, nothing.

It was for that reason and the hunger around us that I chose to revisit one of my own poems for the class assignment.  We were to either take a poet's work we studied in class or one of our own, create our spine and run the work through John Cage's mesostic.  Alternately, we could take one of our own works or one in class and do a Bernadette Mayer assignment like Lori Widmer did with her piece, Mother's Change.  I chose the former.

The title for the piece was The Hunger of  
Tayé Foster Bradshaw

 The original poem and the mesostic is below, followed by the essay, and the peer reviewed comments:

I've Known Hunger by Tayé Foster Bradshaw


I've known a hunger so gripping in its vise, so uncaring in its choice
The kind that makes your head pound with the signals your brain can no longer comprehend
When a pack of Ramen Noodles was the meal of the day and you prayed for enough money for Kraft Mac-n-cheese
The kind that makes you sip the last spoonful of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup so your kids will not go to bed starving
Yes, I've know that dread and fear that your stomach was beyond the "oh, I missed lunch" pang and had entered into the truly 40-days-and-40-nights twist and thud of emptiness that made you realize you had entered the world of STARVATION
It has written itself on the doors of a long ago memory
Those days when a box of Rice-a-Roni was split between four people and the treat was Minute Maid for breakfast if it could last the entire week.
Moments when the only concern was food and thinking what you would not do to get it, even as your skinny frame was dropping below 100.
I've known hunger
I know her name
Her name was me

 iTs uncAring Your hEad  oF nOodles waS The mEal foR  campBells youR thAt beyonD twiSt tHud mAde World  sTarvation hAs memorY thosE  oF ricearOni waS beTween pEople foR  Below hungeR nAme

The spine is my pen name, Tayé Foster Bradshaw.

I chose 10, 5, and 2 of the options and each one ended with what is listed above.  While the mechanics would not allow me to print it here in vertical form, the result was quite interesting to me after reading the original poem and the mesostic. 

One line in the "new" version that stood out to me the most was "starvation has memory."  I found that to be quite prophetic in these times of cut SNAP benefits in the United States, arguably one of the wealthiest nations in the world, while others have food to waste.  Being hungry bites at the very soul of a person, alters their belief of themselves and the world around them, centers every fiber of their nerve endings on curing the thing that has captured every moment of their twenty-four hours - hunger.  

It is twisted beyond measure in this "made world" that cafeteria ladies would throw out a child's reduced breakfast at his elementary school because his parents didn't have thirty-cents.  "It's uncaring, your head of noodles," is what one can say to those hourly workers who are employed by the school district funded by property taxes.  They stood "between people" and proclaimed their innocence at this act, this uncaring thing when they probably know that "noodles was the meal" he had last night.  Starvation truly has a name.

In reading through the mesostic, it is senseless in a way, and makes one wonder what it would have produced had there been more words to run through my pen name a full three times.  It is interesting how it chose some words over others and ordered them in a certain way to render a new line I hadn't thought of when first creating this piece.  I come back to the phrase, 'starvation has memory" and hope that we will remember the mean-spiritedness and evil hearts of those choking back the resources in this country of plenty.  

peer 1 → I love your poem and I love your analysis of the mesostic. It's truly amazing. Thank you for sharing.
peer 2 → Well done. I like the way you find significance in certain word groups formed by the mesostic. You relate them nicely to the theme of your poem with special emphasis on the striking phrase "starvation has memory." I also like the way you state, speaking of the mesostic, "it is senseless in a way." Yes, isn't it a little absurd to write a serious analysis of a mesostic?
peer 3 → It looks like you maybe this assignment - that is reflected in your essay - I am guessing you will go on doing this exercise with many poems in your future - great job. I felt like you studied the source poem thoroughly and did a good job explaining images and your choices of the words to work with. I like your thought that the verticality of the mesostic enhances the interpretation. Yes, I agree that the mesostics method of creating poetry is interesting.
peer 4 → Excellent Work. Choice of your poem is also very good. The experiment seems to be bring out a different outcome after close reading. Cheers.

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