A Narrative of Captivity: A Take on Youth Imprisonment

I can see picket fences, smiling sun faces

I can feel all traces, the golden tongue laces

Feeling like running races is all I’m good at

Picking paces and anxiously waiting post stamps.

The hood claps

And I wish I could hear it

Who woulda thought confinement would make you death to hearing

Took death to living

Still waiting for an answer

Praying God’s Forgiving

Forgive him

Forgive me

Forgive survival through sinning

Forget the lies they bidded

When they told me I had chance

Facing life in prison

When they told him raise hands

While I’m cuffed in system

When they took my own homie in a PE Lesson

 

When they spit at my family in a language undressed

How could I /forget the fuckin language they pressed.

 

Another hearing where we never ever heard

Still I hear the word through a bird

 

Who sings a song through wood and steel/

 

I know why the caged bird don’t kill

I know what the caged bird knows – REAL

I fly high through the strife of my bill

Praying family sees me for what I am- REAL.

 

Cause Lord knows those power in sure don’t

Making an image outta me for

Struggle they Never had to post

 

Amounts raised as if my family could post

 

Bail

 

I’m in this cell but I’m not the only one living in hell.

 

I’m in this cell trying to maintain relations through mail

Trying to keep my soul alive and make sure my mom stays well

 

But my mind state swells – and I enter different realms.

 

Been in since I was 14, I’m 26 and already done 12.

 

So watch what you’re saying when you speak about my name

Watch which side you’re playing when you enter this game

 

I sit and wonder when I’ll see my family again.

I sit and wonder how fast time can pass and how to deal with a lost past within.

 

But I keep on.

‘Cause no one can take what’s inside this muscle.

What survives this struggle.

What shines through this hustle.

 

You can lock up a body, but you cannot touch this mind

 

And shit can kill-

But it can’t redefine or affect the resurrection of what’s mine

The divine is within-

So even without,

We find a way to make it through homie,

I’ll see you on the outs.

 

Review:

Mary Rowlandson in her Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, describes her experiences as being held captive by Indigenous Native Peoples. She describes the trauma she underwent, while also softly speaking against certain stereotypes of Native Indigenous tribes. Rowlandson in her text depicts fear, a sense of helplessness, but also documents the intimate interactions she witnesses as captive amongst populations she had previously never been as close to. Rowlandson story became a best seller throughout the colonies, aligning with a traditional American tactics to put white endangerment at the forefront of all that’s important in America. When a young black boy gets shot by the police, it means nothing to white America. When a 14-year old Latino boy and his high school friends get sentenced to life without parole in prison, as a minor, it does not face headlines. Yet, when a white, wealthy person from a prominent background, faces the slightest threat to prison, it makes headlines and lawyers are there to rescue.

This poem is dedicated to the thousands of American youth who have been held captive in the American prison system with no proper rescue, and whose stories are never heard. This poem reflects a captivity narrative that audiences might not be so welcoming to hear as they were with Rowlandson, for it reveals the problems within our broken judicial systems that intertwine childhood well-being/ safety, while also addressing broken sentencing laws that create large amounts of disparity amongst our youth, men, and women of color. This poem is written in 1stperson perspective, however I find it important to acknowledge that while this piece was written in 1stperson to depict and imitate the narrative style of Rowlandson, this is not my experience and I will never know what it’s like to go through this. This poem aims to honor the resilience of the youth whose stories this poem attempts to reflect and hopes to shed light on the struggle of surviving freely within a nation of policing and imprisonment.

There are men and women sitting in prison for things they did as a child who are still fighting for their story to be heard, for the justice they deserve. This is for them.

-Angelica Costilla

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A Living, Breathing, (human??) Harp

Samantha Shapiro

The desire to “humanize” the harp motif in Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan)’s poem, “The Irish Harp” is seen through the combination of the harpist to his harp; when assigning emotion and action ambiguously, Owenson furthers a belief of Irish singularity and identity by showing the resilience and combative nature of the Irish populace.

By making the Irish harp a human fighting figure, Owenson desires to add “strength in numbers” by teasing out the Irish people’s own unique usage of the harp to fight against British oppression. The harp is first conflated into the harpist when Owenson first introduces the poem in the first stanza, with her finishing: “Why has that song of sweetness died/Which Erin’s Harp alone can breathe?” (Owenson 1). When choosing to use words like “sleeps,” “breathe,” and “languish,” Owenson personifies the “Harp of Erin” and attributing these actions to make revolution a body and living entity based on her choice in personification (Owenson 1, 3). The harpist, in this sense, is like the Society of United Irishmen in their own conflation of the harp to their own political movement, in that referring to both the harp and their own rebellious organization, both are “new-strung and shall be heard;” with the usage of it making meaning purposely ambiguous and thus attributable to human organization (O’Donnell). Owenson introduces a a “sad bard!” or harpist, and “silent…[weeping] Harp” that drew from collective “Harp of Erin’s pride” and “love-sick anguish,” (Owenson 4, 1). Owenson here is using emotion to combine the harpist to his own instrument by mimicking action when choosing to state that “the minstrel breath’d” a lay as the “Harp of Erin” had, but also later on adding onto mimicry with “his Harp’s wild plaintive tones…Breath’d sadder sighs, heav’d deeper moans” but does so in a way open to interpretation as to who genuinely is alive there, and what voice is able to be spread (Owenson 6). The choice to end with the Bard singing while playing with his lyre, the spiritual and emotional tie to the “Harp of Erin,” has the significance of saying, “And Erin go brach he boldly sung.” calling back to patriotism and a desire of Irish identity in stark contrast to the earlier implemented British “Act of Union, in which shapes Irish relations and still are seen to this day.

Although her choice in context of the poem is to stick to a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB for 15 stanzas, she does so in a manner which brings forth elements of creative rebellion within her poetry’s lines. When choosing to italicize “Eve,” “bliss,” “sorrow,” “oppression,” “last,” “Erin’s,” “patriot hero’s tomb,” “he,” “dismay,” “terror,” “his,” “sadder,” “deeper, “despair,” and “Erin go brach” they become a large focus and develops the harp and bard as connected through each other through these important themes and figures – both of the two are the main personified characters with some of these traits and exemplify themes of revolution (Owenson). These stem from political unrest, given that during time period Britain had supported the Irish into a unionization with them. In intentional ambiguity and personification, Owenson gives an audience to the Irish break apart the Britain-forced Act of Union  — some issues stemming from this that continue to last onwards through modern years

Don’t Ask About the Harp, the Irish will Go on for Ages

Esther Quintanilla

Historically, the harp has been an important object to the Irish. Many believe the harp to be connected to their so-called “Irishness”. I think that this idolization of the harp in Ireland is valid because it saved the Irish from being considered barbarians. It was regarded as a symbol of status for musicians. As a musician myself, the respect of any instrument allows for my interests and passions to be taken seriously, especially as a great influencer of culture and society.

The poem “Dear Harp of my Country” by Thomas Moore focuses greatly on the harp as a symbol for Ireland and Irish culture. The name alone makes the poem appear as an ode to the country through the appreciation of the harp. In the first line of the poem, Moore compares the harp to a light found in the darkness. With this harp, the speaker is able to create light, freedom, and song, creating a major correlation between these three concepts and the harp. This is important to the identity of the harp because it allowed people to see the importance of having such an instrument being used in their country. Mirroring the idea of freedom, which was almost infeasible to the Irish because of their religious identities, was significant because it was able to give the hope of freedom to those who were in bondage.

Overall, the harp is a pretty cool instrument that was (and still is) very important to the Irish.

Amerikka in 2019

I wander through American streets

Near the so-called land of the free

And in every corner I can see

Memories of the lynchings on the trees

At every corner people cry,

At every corner children run

At every corner they still try

The youths lives here are no fun

Oh, how the mothers scream

Out of fear that their son may never be seen

Hoping for their lives to gleam

Another victim of a family gene

But on nights like tonight

How the sons continue living their lives

Blasts their calls to fight for their rights

Amerikkka is the modern plague

The Ole’ U.S. of A., 2019

In the chair of our home

Sits the man deemed as unworthy.

And down a narrow road,

One only finds no mercy.

For our home has fallen

Into the grasp of another

Controlled and utilized

For a purpose unworthy.

Aye, the road ahead

Shows a slight glow’a hope,

From the cries of the innocent

Who seek justice for those who don’t.

Yet as the nights grow longer

And the years as well,

Our home lies in shreds,

From the man who still dwells.

(This sucks as a poem, I am so sorry your eyes were cursed to read this. I just can’t write poetry.)

-Jody Omlin

-No peace is given

—— No peace is given

To us enslav’d, but custody severe;

And stripes and aribtary punishment

Inflicted– What peace can we return?

But to our power, hostility and hate;

Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, though slow.

Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least

May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice

In doing what we most in suffering feel                     – Milton, Paradise Lost, 2.232-40

Olaudah Equiano published his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, which included this quotation, among many other great English works. After buying his freedom, Equiano dedicated his life to the abolitionist movement in-order to stop the horrors he once faced. His autobiography is littered with references to great works, here is one.

Prior to quoting Milton, Equiano talks about the grave nature of torturing slaves. His mind can’t come to bear what kind of mindset it takes to punish another human like that. “And are ye not struck with shame and mortification, to see the partakers of your nature reduced so low? “ (103). Here in this, Equiano is hoping to reach his audience (in particular potential slave owners) and hoping to strike a chord. To plead with rationality, to not give into humans primordial instinct, but to be better than that. Equiano quotes Milton in order to communicate this feeling, of toxicity that the enslaved receive, and the slaver rejoices.

Equiano quotes many great works in his Narrative to give himself credibility, in-order to place him among the great works. Anyone that is enlightened to read a former-slaves autobiography, most likely knows about Homer, Milton, etc. Equiano hopes to captivate his audience, and wants them to extend an olive branch and cease all slavery oppression. As Thomas de Quincey talked about Literature of Power, Equiano wanted his work to be powerful as well. Now a powerful historic piece, The Interesting Narrative was in-depth look into the life of a former slave that English literature needed

-Robert Morales

 

Oh NO, Not The Night

Throughout his narrative, titles as The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano is forced to endure many hardships, which he reflects upon through many forms of writings by quoting parts of book that he had read, including but not limited to; the Bible, John Milton, and Colley Cibber. The one part in Equiano’s narrative that caught my attention instantly while reading it can be found on page 51 in the writing, with a quote from John Denham’s novel Cooper’s Hill, as he says;

“Thus I was like a hunted deer:

‘Ev’ry leaf and ev’ry whisp’ring breath

Convey’d a foe, and ev’ry foe a death.'”

In this part of the narrative, the reader is able to envision Equiano fearing his master and the punishment to come once he is to be found after “running back home” from them. This unbridled terror can be found as he explains in detail how every sound made him still, and “abandoned [him]self to despair” as night began to approach. (Equiano 51). Equaino is using these words in order to draw a conclusion towards what may be his death; or, at least, his symbolic death from fear over his master. When Equiano returns, he is quickly treated to before sold once more, now not seeming to fear the ones who were free, but learning from them until he himself could receive that same human right.

The reason why Equiano uses so many different kinds of texts throughout his narrative is because he wants to show his audience that he is educated, and can be trusted by his fellow men as an intelligent man. By quoting from the Bible, Equiano convinces his audience that he is a devote Christian, meaning that he, a man so holy and devoted to the Bible, could do no wrong! Just as any other Christian! (Please, note my sarcasm. I’m begging you.)

– Jody Omlin

Swift’s Mirror of Hypocrisy

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a piece of work that functions tirelessly as a critique of the Enlightenment period. He uses satire and parody as a means to illuminate the faults of the captivity and travel narratives that rose as genres at the time. With Bacon’s “New Atlantis,” the projection of a perfect Utopian society allowed for individuals to imagine the possibility of life and space where all things were perfect and everything ran smoothly. While this is a great idea, one that I feel all of us wish were true, Swift not only laughs at the presentation of this idea amongst imperialism, genocide, and booming racism, but he also forces the reader to meet head to head with its’ irony.

In chapter three of part one, he writes:
“I sworn and subscribed to the Articles with great Cheerfulness and Contentment, although some of them were not so honorable as I could have wished;…… Whereupon my Chains were immediately unlocked, and I was at full liberty.” (44)

Swift here presents a passive aggressive tone that strikingly targets the hypocrisy found within Bacon’s suggested Utopian society during a time where freedom for all is not seen as that important than the freedom of some. Swift juxtaposes the words “chains” and “liberty” in the same sentence, sarcastically alluding to the impossibility of being ultimately free while still bound by the chains of authorial oppression. He capitalizes “Cheerfulness” and “Contentment” as a means to heighten these proposals with the purpose of bringing them down to sheer reality. Swift wants the readers to recognize that while these ideas are high and mighty; while you may be seen as an excellent person for proposing these ideas- with no execution in the real world, these ideas mean nothing. Treat here is mirroring reality amongst the reflection of hypocrisy.

-Angelica Costilla

A Prideful Fight for Freedom

In John Dryden’s, The Indian Emperour, the relationship between Cortez and Cydaria is always one step ahead of each other. They’re never on the same page because there are still politics between their love and though Cortez loves Cydaria, he’s not able to stop the war until it is too late. Even when the story is about to end, Cortez and Cydaria aren’t on the same page because she gets stabbed. This is definitely Dryden making a statement that the relationship between foreign imperialists and Aztec natives would never be a good one, it would never be reconciled. It is him at the end with death surrounding him. The fact that Cortez wasn’t able to stop the war long before figuring out his conflict between love and honor had a lot to do with the reason why he couldn’t end up having his happy ending which was to save both Cydaria and Moctezuma. However, there was the huge factor of pride that created most of the doubt in the plot of this play. Not expecting any less, Moctezuma was not able to accept that it would be Cortez, his enemy, to be the hero in his life after destroying everything, that his life would solely be dependent on him. He didn’t consider that having a grip of his freedom. I think there was a sense of foreshadowing when Moctezuma was being tortured and the priest asks him if he’s allowed to say where the gold could be found and Moctezuma’s alternative is for him to die.

That is why it doesn’t come as a shocker when Moctezuma kills himself instead of giving thanks to the person who’s responsible for starting it all in the first place. Moctezuma dies holding on to his statement of, “If either Death or Bondage I must choose,/I’ll keep my Freedom, through my life I lose.” I think this line is what determines the relationship between imperialists and Aztec natives because the reality is that it could never be tied to a happy ending. Theatre and politics also have a lot to do with this given that the result of this play was for Cortez to be left with nothing but nonetheless a huge win in his favor. The audience watching this play would probably be even more encouraged to see it as a justification for all the hierarchies and the treatment of those around them.

 

-Ruth Serrano

Freedom Harpers

In Thomas Moore’s Dear Harp of my Country, he discusses the condition of the harp of Ireland in the first four lines.

DEAR Harp of my Country! In darkness I found thee,

The cold chain of silence had hung o’er thee long,

When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee,

And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song!

After years of being ruled by the English, the harp of Ireland has disappeared and faded into darkness. In addition to that, Moore’s writing also implies how the harp has become “silent” due to the oppression of the British. The true Irish culture has been held captive and the only way to release it is to remove the English from Ireland. And according to the link provided by Professor Garcia, the harp is not much of a symbol for Gaelic culture during the 17th-18th century, as the “Winged-Maiden Harp” stands for English rule over Ireland. Thomas Moore, is regarded as “one of the champions of freedom of Ireland”. Knowing this, he is calling for a revolution. He is going back to a time where the harp was more than just a reminder of English oppression, he is trying to remind the people that the history of the harp meant so much more to their history and roots. If anything, it becomes more of a reminder and more of a warning of how the harp will lose its meaning.

The warm lay of love and the light note of gladness

Have waken’d thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill;

But, so oft hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness

That ev’n in thy mirth it will from thee still

As mentioned in class, the harp conveys both a positive and negative emotion when we were listening to the song. Although it may sound peaceful, it also creates a sound of sorrow and tragedy. This excerpt of the poem is a very good description of how the harp sounds and how it is heard through our ears. Furthermore, Moore could be talking about the origins of harp symbolism. In the 12th century, a Welsh cleric accompanied English Prince John to a visit to Ireland. His key observation of harp players were identified as the most remarkable characteristic out of a barbaric race. This created the foundation of what the harp symbolizes today: the freedom and true spirit of Ireland. Throughout the test of time, harp players managed to adapt to their surroundings while catering and captivating new audiences. Thus, showing the “warm lay of love and the light note of gladness”. However, there were also tragedies in Irish history, such as the Battle of Kinsale (1601). That battle could be the “deep sigh of sadness”. Because after that battle, the harp was not a symbol of freedom and Irish culture, it was a symbol for English rule. And even so, the harp might lose its Irish roots and culture if the English decides to make it their own. Moore is writing to keep the symbol of Irish identity, culture, freedom, etc. alive before it is forgotten and taken away by the English as well.

-Christopher Luong