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Conversations in Literature
Conversations in Literature — Workshop
About CONVERSATIONS IN LITERATURE

Individual Program
Descriptions

1. Responding
as Readers


2. Envisioning

3. Stepping In

4. Moving Through

5. Rethinking

6. Objectifying
the Text


7. The Stances
in Action


8. Returning to the
Classroom





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Channel-TalkLitConversations

Re: [Channel-talklitconversations] Responding to "Sympathy" by Dunbar

From: <bawbfree@earthlink.net>
Date: Tue Jul 12 2005 - 22:50:07 EDT
X-Mailer: Earthlink Zoo Mail 1.0

Janie's insight into "Sympathy" helped me so much. I found that I really couldn't relate to the poem, knowing that it was about racial oppression. Like Janie, I've never felt this either. I did relate the ideas in the poem to other works that I've read such as The Color Purple and Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but because of the poem's format, found that I couldn't relate to a character like I did in the novels.

However, Janie's connection to her life as a stay at home mother made me look at the poem with a new perspective. I had a baby in February and went from having a busy full time work schedule, people who listened and respected what I had to say and a general feeling of self worth, to a stay at home mom. Knowing that I had only six months at home with my baby before I returned to work, I feel like I should take advantage of every single minute with my son. However, I also find that I feel trapped in a world where there are only one-sided conversations, where people inquire about my baby but not me, and I have nothing to talk about other than my son's latest achievement. I don't feel like myself, and I do feel somewhat imprisioned-- in my own expectations for myself and in what I perceive to be the world's expectations for a mother. I have felt "freer" since I stopped reading all of those baby help books which made me feel like a terrible mother who wasn't even coming close to raising an intelligent, happ
y child. I think that these views of parenting--ie how it "should" be done-- are the most restrictive; if we don't live up to others' expectations of parenting, we feel trapped because our own views are different.

Janie's connection to Christianity made me think of George Herbert's "Easter Wings" in which the speaker describes how when we are "most thin" and "most poor" we are ready to be freed by God. It's the paradox found in so many Christian writings-- only through being broken down or "imprisoned" are humans ready to be freed.

Thanks for your help with this poem-- I really feel much more of a connection to it now.

Amy

-----Original Message-----
From: Janie Slater <janieloveslife@hotmail.com>
Sent: Jun 22, 2005 11:16 PM
To: channel-talklitconversations@learner.org
Subject: [Channel-talklitconversations] Responding to "Sympathy" by Dunbar

I do not know the heavy burden of racial prejudice. However I KNOW how a
caged bird feels. I don't know how this will sound or be taken by my fellow
e-mailers here...but I well remember the feeling of "imprisonment" and being
trapped as the mother of two babies (a 22 month old and a newborn...and the
months that followed). I felt overwhelmed. Like nobody cared. Like I was
"beating my breast" against the bars. And the particularly poignant line
that touched me was:
"For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing."
I know that longing to be "out there" but knowing that it can't be, won't
be.

The difference, of course, is that my own situation was inherantly a "happy"
one....one more of the mind and hormones to be worked through to get to a
place of more "normality." All the while enjoying and marveling at this new
life and the joys of being a mom....la la la.

The other connection point with the caged bird is being a Christian in a
fallen world--indeed being a sinful, fallen person myself--and dealing with
the consequences of both. There is a longing for deliverance from what is
truly a temporary situation--life in this world with it's shackles and
burdens--it's only a shadow-life of what life could be and WILLl be
hereafter. Jesus said, "In this world you will have many troubles. But take
heart, for I have overcome the world." There it is. We long in our souls for
"home." Meanwhile, we beat our wings on the cruel bars, but fly back to our
perch and cling.

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Received on Wed Jul 13 09:15:04 2005

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