note on the “sestina”

I wanted to say a little more about the sestina form, as it appears in When Rap Spoke Straight to God, which I glossed over in class.

The sestina is a complicated form that goes back to 12th century Troubadour poetry. The form consists of six stanzas of six lines each, with the addition of a three-line envoi. (Envoi is a poetics term for a short, concluding stanza.) The “end words” of the first stanza are repeated in a fixed order, with the concluding envoy including all of the end words.

Dawson’s sestinas in Rap Spoke Straight to God follow an irregular order of end words. If you map out the six end words (swing, trump, skies, this, “K,” new) in the sestina beginning on page 11 (with the line, “For some, it don’t mean a thing without the swing . . .”), you’ll find this pattern:

1 2 3 4 5 6

6 1 2 3 4 5

5 6 1 2 3 4

4 5 6 1 2 3

3 4 5 6 1 2

2 3 4 5 6 1

(5 6) (1 3) (2 4)

This is just another way that Dawson works within “traditional” poetic forms, yet also audaciously remixes them.

For more on the sestina form, check out this page:

Anthony’s mixtape blog

The song that I will be choosing from my playlist is “Blame it on me” by Post Malone. When I first heard this song, it was in a car with a group of friends. Usually when you are in that type of scenario, everybody in the car is talking, having a laugh, or you know, a good time. But this song playing in the car, it hit me as I was going through a dark time in that current state. Now in my head, I’m somewhere else, filtering all my surroundings, and the noises except this one song. This guy, Post Malone, is singing, and I’m listening to the lyrics as I think about all those times I took blame in myself for the things that occurred in my life. It made me think about the people in my life who were supposed to be close to me, but instead made me feel like crap. Then this song made me realize that I shouldn’t take blame for those things all because certain people don’t like to admit their faults, and instead, like to put the blame on others like you. That those people aren’t going to care about putting you in that spot to bring you down when they don’t have sympathy towards you in doing so. They’d rather watch you suffer and that its up to a person like you to either take the blame even though you aren’t to be blamed, or the better option, which is to be the bigger person and realize enough to point out whose really in the wrong. At the end of the day, it’s you who you should be looking out for, and letting others treat you bad isn’t the right step for having respect towards yourself. Knowing that if what you did is your fault, then it’s wise to accept that, but when its not your fault, then you have no reason to accept the blame.

Kimberly’s audible artifact

The song “Blk Girl Soldier” by Jamila Woods is all about celebrating the strength of black women by combining historical icons with the black women that are currently fighting injustice. Her music is about peace, justice, and equality. Erica Dawson, in her poem “When Rap Spoke Straight to God”, talks about what it means to be a black woman in a “country that is ruled by institutions of whiteness” (Publishers Weekly, 2018). She writes about the struggles and hardships that black bodies are constantly having to dealt with, and the everyday violence inflicted on them – emotional and physical – that characterizes what is called white supremacy. From the poet’s perspective, even though their history brings them scars, it is certainly a strong reminder of how they were/are able to overcome the brutality of oppression and still have hope and capacity to reach the light. Both the song and the poem relate to each other in the way that they protest about a country that fails to reckon with its past, but at the same time, celebrate the best of black culture without forgetting or ignoring its history – after all, both are simply trying to communicate the light at the end of the tunnel.

Maria’s Audible artifact

I chose the song “Peculiar Mathematics” by Yasiin Gaye. Amerigo Gazaway is an emcee/dj who’s become known for his sampling. He created an album combining the music of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and Marvin Gaye, creating the artist Yasiin Gaye. Many times, samples of old favorites or lost gems give a new song the appeal they need to sell. The familiar samples allow the audience to hear a song they might not otherwise listen to. This album, however, combines two artists whose music stands solidly in it’s own right, and creates a new way to enjoy both. “Peculiar Mathematics” is one of my favorite songs on the album. It also happens to directly correlate to topics we’ve discussed in class, including Erica Dawson’s book, “When Rap Spoke Straight to God.”

One of our first class discussions centered on creative copyright. Artists have always “borrowed” form other artists, be it influence or outright theft. The act has garnered both support and opposition. I think this album is a positive example of creative license. The pairing of these two artists is very complimentary, both politically minded artists from different eras, who also just make catchy/good music. The politics of it all is why I chose this song in particular. Mos Def makes many references to how the system is stacked against black Americans, and the class system in general. Marvin Gaye’s fun music behind Mos Def’s harsh analysis makes the song for me. Erica Dawson does a similar juxtaposition in her book. She uses Bible references with her own work to turn her story all at once empowering and vulnerable. It doesn’t seem like the Bible would lend to this, at least for me, but she seems to marry it in a way that works as well as this collab. Both tackle the systems set up against them, whether it be the color of their skin, or for Erica, her sex.

“Exploding” a poem

Understanding a poem always requires multiple readings. Let’s practice!

We’ll read a few passages from Erica Dawson’s When Rap Spoke Straight to God three times each. Each time, you’ll approach the poem slightly differently.

  • The first time, just listen to the poem.
  • The second time, choose one line of the poem and “annotate” it with a short question or comment.
  • The third time, the class will “explode”—meaning, you’ll share aloud what you wrote after the line has been spoken.

We’ll then follow up with some questions:

  1. What did you hear during the explosion?
  2. What surprised you?
  3. What didn’t you understand?
  4. What patterns did you notice?
  5. Which lines drew your attention and why?

Isaac Cekic’s Analysis

The song “Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin is one that I have held in my heart for a long time. This is due to the fact that the motif developed throughout the song is that the singer’s son grows up not really having a father figure. This is due to the fact that “there were planes to catch, bills to pay” (Chapin). The singer solidifies this theme by even mentioning how his child learned to walk while he was away. The lack of a father figure in a developing child relates to me, as my father passed away when I was a small child. The chorus is symbolic of the father not being present in his son’s life, as the father is tirelessly working or away. The father is always trying to reassure the son they will spend time together, but it is quite evident that this does not actually happen. I enjoy the fact that while their is a guitar highly present throughout the song, the main instrumentation is Harry Chapin’s voice. This is because Harry Chapin died while his children were quite young, so the song holds even more meaning. Another thing Chapin does very well is juxtapose the lack of time spent between both the father and the son. Towards the end of the song, the father yearns to spend time with his son (having retired), and the son turns him down, as he is beginning his family, work, and life overall. I feel this is very emotional, due to the fact that this is where the father realizes neither one of them spent enough time with the other throughout their lives.

Tyleshia’s Mixtape Blog

The song I chose is “Little Me” by the girl band Little Mix. I chose this song because to me the song is about if I were able to go back in time I would tell my younger self to be more confident and not think about what others are saying. This message stood out to me because as a child I was extremely shy and wouldn’t speak up, I was the girl who would follow others and not be my own leader. In the lyric, “Tell her she’s beautiful, wonderful Everything she doesn’t see.” I really related to that line because I was once a girl that didn’t believe I was actually beautiful, for a while I didn’t see what everyone else saw in me and it honestly messed with my mind for years, so when I finally realized my true inner and outer beauty, I wished I had seen and known it all along. I think the song sends a positive message to all of their fans that they are beautiful and can do and be anything they want if they just have confidence. “Yeah you got a lot of time to act your age You cannot write a book from a single page Hands on the clock only turn one way” To me this lyric means that girls or anyone in general should focus on acting their age rather than trying to be older or younger because you cannot control time, meaning you can’t speed it up or slow it down hence the lyric, “Hands on the clock only turn one way.” The lyric “Run too fast and risk it all Can’t be afraid to take a fall Felt so big but you looked so small” is also significant to me because they’re saying that if you move to fast you are risking the possibility of messing your life up my trying to grow up too fast. It also says that you can’t be afraid to fall down, we all fall down sometimes, the important thing is that you pick yourself up and try again.

Neyda’s MiXtape Blog

     Out of the 5 songs of my mixtape, the one that connects to me was Mi Forma De Ser by Farruko. This song was one of the songs that really connected to me because as the song says “Siempre van hablar pero no importa La gente siempre va hablar mal Yo no sé, siempre yo he sido así Por nadie yo voy a cambiar, mi manera de pensar” meaning  that people are always going to talk bad about you, and that’s how you are and no one can change you. You just need to ignore the people that want to bring you down. Ignore those hateful comments that people make about you. In my experience many people have tried to bring me down based on what others say. And by that I mean that many people have spread very awful things about me,or they just look at me and hate me for absolutely no reason, and I ask myself.. Why? I haven’t done anything to them. But then I realize that they hate me because of what I have. But at the end I didn’t ask for all the things that my parents have given me. I get what I want because I deserve it and well  maybe because they spoil me but mostly because of my good grades and I help around the house. But to the eyes of the people that hate me it’s because I’m a spoiled b****( excuse my language, but that’s what they call me) But at the end of the day I know that what they are saying is not true, and I just ignore them, I will not listen to what they are saying because they are only haters. They hate the way I live and well it’s not my problem. There only one option which is to move out of where I live, but I will not change. And this song talks about all those haters, that want to bring him( the singer) down, but they can’t. They are haters and he is way better than them. We are all better than our haters.

Emily Mixtape Blog

I chose “In the air tonight” by Phil Collins as the song of choice for this assignment. This song is one of the most heard of songs worldwide. The reason why this song is so famous isn’t because of the lyrics, but because of the sow beat that introduces the song before any lyric can be heard. When I first heard this song, I remember automatically knowing what kind of song this was going to be based solely on the rhythm of the song. When I mentioned earlier that the beat introduces the song before any lyric is heard is because the beat is slow, you just understand that this is going to be a sentimental song. Those were my initials thoughts on the song. The lyrics to the song match the rhythm of the song perfectly with his monotone voice and the slow rhythm of beat. Throughout the song however, the drums are introduced when he goes off from his monotone voice to a higher pitch voice while he sings the chorus of the song. This is what makes it so memorable.

The songs most popular and catchy lyric is the actual chorus. The chorus is what most people think about when they think of Phil Collins himself in fact, I would say this is the most known piece of music made by Phil Collins. The song has reached “urban legend” status because the lyrics in his song weren’t at all true; for example, the most famous line he says” if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand” which describes an event that never happened to him in his life. An interesting fact I learned about when Phil Collins was in an interview and he was asked about the lyrics and what it really meant. Collins said “I don’t recognize what this music is about” until he mentioned he wrote this song when he was going through a divorce with his wife, it was an angry and sad time in his life. The drumbeat rhythm in the middle of the song came into his mind out of the blue at a time he was bored. The music video also goes with the rhythm and the lyrics of the song with the white and black colors in the background and only his face showing up in white and black also for most of the video. What else makes “In the air tonight” a great song is because of awesome it made my childhood. I remember being a child, air drumming this song and making a mess with pots and pans just to act like I was part of a concert. For music to help imbed memories and reenact certain parts of your life is an amazing thing. That shows you the power of music, especially if you really find a love for the song itself.

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