Category Archives: English

Passion and Pride: Medicine Wheel Descriptive-Narrative Story

I’d like to say my obsession started in 6th grade, when I was beaten in math class for the fastest finisher. I had always felt confident in my abilities, but I became a monster. I hadn’t known how badly that would affect my mindset. My hunger was insatiable and soon, my emotions became unstable.

The first step towards my self-destruction was the week of all-nighters leading up to finals in my senior year of high school. My hands shook with every pen stroke I made, every cue card I flipped, and every word I scanned with my exhausted eyes. My very being trembled with fatigue, but it trembled even more at the thought of failure, so I pressed on, my pride carrying me through the long hours of the night. Evenings mingled with mornings, and I found myself relying on the prospect of far-off success to get myself through. One more hour, I lied to myself. One more night, I repeated. One more week, I told myself. One more year, I reminded myself. I worked so hard, calluses formed on my fingertips and the sleeves of all my shirts became stained with ink. Yet I never stopped. No matter what, I pushed myself to work. The positive reaffirmations my peers and teachers gave me never stuck in my head; in fact, they helped build up the bricks of the foundation of my insecurity, the very foundation that caused this streak of insanity and the pursuit of success.

The second step towards my self-destruction was quitting. When I moved out, I brought the piano to my apartment. Grades became my whole life, but before that, I was a musician. Every time I opened up the piano lid and swept my fingers across the keys, I felt like an artist. I always played to lift my spirits. But what’s the point of fruitlessly pursuing a so-called “passion” if it brings no success? When I came 2nd in a competition for the first time, that was the end of it. I locked up the room that the piano was in and threw the key somewhere in my closet, probably covered by old labs and textbooks by now. Occasionally, I felt as if I could hear music coming, mocking me in silent sadness as I carried on with my masquerade of what was supposedly best for me.

The third step I took towards my self-destruction was signing up for the extra credit calculus exam. I knew it was my weakest subject, yet my pride would not allow for me to do otherwise.  Every day, like clockwork, I would go to the campus library and stay there until closing, continuing to read my notes on the bus back to my apartment. My friends said I was crazy. My professors were concerned for my health. But I took no notice of their words. My mind was possessed by the idea of success, which I had been craving my whole life. When I got the exam results back, I cried while reading my chemistry textbook. A 93% was not good enough for me.

Now, I am sitting in my room, weak with fatigue. This is the 4th all-nighter in a row that I have pulled, in preparation for my string of finals. My body is betraying my mind. My brain is swirling with thoughts, formulas and equations mixing with dates and names. But my body is suffering. My heart is beating quickly, I am clammy, and my hands continue to shake. Maybe, I think, my efforts are futile. Maybe by giving up everything that made me who I am, I have paved a path to failure. Is this truly what I seek? A wave of thoughts clouds my mind, and I fall to the ground, textbooks clattering after me.

In truth, I am successful. But am I truly happy? My life has been an endless chase for things that have been so far away. Shaking myself off, I do something I promised myself I’d never do. Starting towards the closet, I take a deep breath. After an hour of sifting through my old papers, memories of failure and success rush through my head. Then, I find it. The object that, in many ways, has been the key to unlocking my true self-worth, yet which I had been denying for so long. I pick up the rusty key, and turn the lock to the ancient room in which the piano lies. Then, autopilot takes over and I no longer worry. I simply play the piano, the music lapping around me like waves.

In the morning, when I head off to the first of my many exams, I realize that I have not re-read my notes. But for some reason, I no longer care.

 

ZIP DocL

“Hey! Let’s look at popular song content, rhyme schemes, structure, similarities and differences, musical accompaniment, and melodic and harmonic blending and try to make our own song based on a relatable topic with a catchy melody! Oh, and we only have a few weeks.”

Wow, that sounded a lot worse written down. But this, sadly, was our ZIP project in a nutshell. Katrina and I covered the topic of songwriting and conveying a message through song, and, although it wasn’t what we predicted the final product to be, it was better than we thought it might be.

For my portion of the project, I analyzed the rhymes, structure and nonverbal techniques of two (of my favourite) songs from different eras. I used my new knowledge of different rhyming styles to make my own analysis of the songs Ace of Hearts (by Zella Day) and Bohemian Rhapsody (by Queen). I started by listening to each song as an audio recording once, writing down thoughts and themes about it, and different word painting (where the music reflects the literal meaning of the text) techniques. I then looked at the lyrics-only version and marked down the different rhymes, structures, and other text techniques, focusing on the subject matter. Using both of my results, I checked how the music might help convey the theme of the song, since I had been once told that humans learn better when the information is reinforced verbally and/or put to music. After this, I consulted my results with the website genius.com for both songs (Ace of Hearts and Bohemian Rhapsody) and made some new revisions.

On to the song production. This was the hardest part. With analysis, there was an “end”, or a point where I knew I was finished. Writing it ourselves, however… aside from choosing a theme/subject, we had to get the timing just right to match the text and music, and make sure that when read aloud, the lyrics didn’t sound too awkward (MISSION: FAILED). We approached this by writing the lyrics, melody (Katrina’s job) and chords (my job) first, then matching them up. I feel like although this was a good method, we should have focused more on the lyrics than making an “impressive” musical part (this is an English project after all). Our subject was inspired by an actual friend (our attempt at making the lyrics relatable), and we tried to use lots of imagery. After all, song lyrics are similar to poetry, right? Well, yes, that is true, but I realize now, song lyrics require “white space”, which I use to describe breaks in the text where only instrumentals are heard. Ours was a bit packed in, with little pockets of white space here and there.

We wrote the lyrics quite a while before the project was done, but trying to match a harmony with the melody proved to be very difficult, especially this was our first try at songwriting, and we tried to squish too many lyrics in to get our point across. The basic chords fit fine, but the countersubject of the accompaniment… definitely embarrassing.

Overall, I enjoyed songwriting. I feel like we could have made it a little bit more our own, since (while writing the lyrics) we tried to use subject matter that was more relatable for others than ourselves. Although the music industry nowadays is all about production and consumption (and $$$), we could have made this more personal. I would definitely want to expand on this project. Katrina and I both have a musical background, and with more care and time, I think we could have made a much more impressive product that reflected our true styles while still making the song engaging. NOTE TO SELF: Actually get song lyrics recorded next time…

The bolded words indicate the different sections of the song, and spaces in between the lines indicate breaks in the lyrics.

[Verse 1:]

When I first met you I thought you would be nothing to me

But now when I see you, it gets a little harder to breathe

Though I know that it will never be

I wish that you would look at me

[Pre chorus:]

You keep pouring honey in my ears

But I keep listening to my fears

I hope that one day you will see

How much you really mean to me

[Chorus:]
I want a love, a love with you

Even though we should be through

It hurts without your presence

And even when I want to leave

You keep pulling me back to you

[Verse 2:]

Seeing you every day

Is a blessing and a curse

Watching you smile at me,

Makes my heart want to burst

My love for you is like gasoline

Toxic and bad for me

But every time I try to leave

You pull me back with words so sweet

[Bridge:]

I want a love, a love with you

But breathing under your waters is getting hard to do

I’ll be stuck here forever, if I don’t move

But I don’t want to lose you

[Repeat Chorus]

ZAP Shakespeare Sonnets: An Analysis

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

          “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

 

Recognize any of these quotes? Although many people are familiar with the above quotes, or maybe even know where they’re from, I bet you that most people don’t know how these quotes are written. How, you ask? First, we must understand the basics of the Shakespearean Sonnet.

William Shakespeare (you all know who he is) frequently used iambic pentameter in his sonnets. What is that? Well, if we dissect this term, we get the two separate components of iamb and pentameter. In poetry, a group of two syllables is called a “foot”. An “iamb” is a foot that has a stressed syllable follow an unstressed syllable. Pentameter is a type of poetic meter, which uses five (penta) feet in a line. If the feet happen to be iambs, there you have iambic pentameter! (But don’t get me started on tetrameter, trimester, hexameter, heptameter…) Most of the above (and wayyy below) quotes are written with this exact form, some of which use the rhyme scheme described below (next paragraph).

Now, Shakespeare’s sonnets used a 14-line system: the first 12 lines composed of 3 quatrains, each with 4 lines, in which the initial theme or problem is stated; the last 2 lines, a couplet, solves the problem, acting as a conclusion. Complete sonnets typically follow a rhyme scheme of “abab cdcd efef gg”. Although Shakespeare usually stays true to the typical sonnet form, he creates his own variations, sometimes straying from the rhyme scheme, stressed syllable order, or number of syllables per line– however, the sonnets can all be identified due to the fact that they usually abide by the rules of sonnet-writing. Themes that he frequently used were those of love and nature. Shakespeare also wrote his sonnets using three central characters: the Fair Youth, the Dark Lady, and the Rival Poet.

I decided to give sonnet-writing a try. Sonnets have a pretty difficult structure, so I thought I could apply written knowledge to other assignments. I kept many elements, such as the rhyme scheme, characters (Fair Youth and Dark Lady), and variations, such as adding the occasional extra syllable, or changing the order in which a syllable was stressed. (Read further analysis below sonnet.)

 

From the edges of his gaze he does see

A maiden who sings words that part her lips;

Pure beauty, such that brings him to his knees,

O! he longs for the tender touch of her kiss.

For her hair, wherefore that the night doth bring,

Is as dark as his is fair, spun with sun;

She is beyond compare, the bells doth ring,

Into his needing arms, he wills her run.

And as he is consumed with the hell fires

Of lust, acrimony lurks e’er within;

The mistress cometh, to let ebbing desire

Yet he turns his back, letting guilt win.

We lie, still with the poison of our greed,

At the day’s end, what true more did we need?

-Mimi Kim 2015

My sonnet contains different content than the norm. Its subject matter is a little darker than the typical sonnet, seeing as most of Shakespeare’s tell tales of romance, love stories, and beautiful nature. I decided to stray more towards the “tragedy” side of drama, drawing inspiration from the Serialism-Era opera “Wozzeck” by Alban Berg, in which a tortured soul kills his wife for her infidelity and drowns, and from the tragic end of Shakespeare’s love story Romeo and Juliet, taking subject matter from their suicide for love. I decided to do a dark parody of people who kill their cheating partners (inspired by Wozzeck); a tragic mirror of Shakespeare’s romantic sonnets. As a whole, it depicts the tale of a young man, whose greed eventually led to his demise.

The mood starts out quite light, as we see a man in love with a lady, starting with a description through the Fair Youth’s eyes, describing the pure, innocent, beauty of the Dark Lady. However, as the sonnet progresses, we eventually see the darker side to this unrequited love. (As the author, I intended for the audience to possibly realize that Fair Youth already has a significant other, which I depicted with his turning away from her eventual return of his affection. I also referred to her as the mistress, hinting that she is not alone in holding the Fair Youth’s heart.) The one-sided love progresses, climaxing as the Dark Lady begins to return the affections shown to her by the Fair Youth. Everything in him is more than willing to accept, save for the fact that “acrimony lurks e’er within” (Quatrain 3, line 2). You’ll notice that in “The mistress cometh, to let ebbing desire” my use of the word “let” doesn’t quite make sense. However, in Shakespearean language, the word “let” took on a double meaning, one of which meant “to stop, or impede”. In the end, “We lie, still with the poison of our greed” takes on a literal meaning, in which I strongly suggest that the Fair Youth’s adulterous feelings and guilt drive him inwards, leading him to kill himself.

In the sonnet’s last line, “At the day’s end, what true more did we need?” I decided to be a little unconventional and use the word “more” as more of a noun, using it to describe excess. This last line is supposed to convey the regret the Fair Youth has from straying from his true lover. “At the day’s end” really means at the end of his life, and “what true more did we need?” asks us, was whatever we desired worth the rest of our life? Was it really necessary for him to be dissatisfied with his current relationship? Clearly not, as his regret turns into something much more drastic. What more did the Fair Youth truly need? My Shakespearean sonnet, although different in content, definitely followed the German Expressionism movement in art, which explored the darker corners of human emotions (hate, regret, and fear).

This was a lot harder than I expected; I ran into lot of unexpected problems, such as keeping it short enough. Sonnets are too short to tell a detailed story, but they aren’t so short that they can be bleak and sans imagery and detail. Especially for someone like me, who likes to make my writing detailed and deep, rather than short and sweet, this was an especially difficult part of my project. However, I loved experimenting with this style of writing, since I don’t usually write poetry. It was really fun analyzing, learning about, and writing my own sonnet. If I were more confident in my public speaking skills (and if I had more time), I would have written/performed my entire presentation in Shakespearean sonnet form, complete with Ye Olde English. Will I pursue Shakespeare in the future? Probably. Will I revolutionize sonnet writing? Probably not. However, I loved this project, and it will help me in the future, not just for Shakespeare, but for reading/writing other materials as well.

“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

“The expense of spirit is a waste of shame.”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”