Chivalry is Not Dead!

Thursday Verseday with Arlinda

While the author still remains anonymous, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of my favorite poems from the Medieval Ages. It is written in four parts, each of which offers pieces of a tale told from a mystical, chivalrous, and Celtic standpoint. Sir Gawain is portrayed as a knight who risks his life in an attempt to prove his chivalry to King Arthur. This poem is told as a story with twists and turns prompting the reader to keep reading.

At first, Sir Gawain consents to a duel with the Green Knight in the hopes of appearing chivalrous in the eyes of King Arthur and the other Knights of the Round Table. Sir Gawain believed he had killed the Green Knight by chopping off his head; after realizing the Green Knight had survived the fatal blow, Gawain is forced in the name of chivalry to promise the Green Knight he will search for him and allow the knight to deliver a fatal blow in return. While on his quest, Sir Gawain rests at the home of Lord Bertilak de Hautdesert where the Lord’s wife tries to seduce Sir Gawain and tempt him to betray the kind Lord Bertilak who has allowed Gawain to rest in his home.

It is only at the end of part four that Sir Gawain realizes that Lord Bertilak de Hautdesert is secretly also the Green Knight! Sir Gawain discovers that King Arthur’s sister Morgan le Fay cast a protection spell on the Green Knight and sent him to King Arthur’s home in the hopes of upsetting Arthur’s wife Guinevere. This is conveyed when the poem states, “she put this magic upon me to deprive you of your wits/ in hope Guinevere to hurt, that she in horror might die.” Sir Gawain prepares and hopes for the best as he faces his second duel with the Green Knight. Will Sir Gawain’s chivalry save him, or will his time at Lord Bertilak de Hautdesert’s home lead to his demise? It is revealed that Sir Gawain’s quest was all along a test, one in which you’ll have to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to determine the rest!




The novel Kitchen, by award winning author Banana Yoshimoto, is her debut novel and also one of her most highly acclaimed works. Kitchen is a story which involves love, family, and food. This book is a quick read, but its definitely the type of book that has the unique quality of being re readable. I first read this book in high school, and since then have been a huge fan of it and its creator. The story is narrated, by the protagonist Mikage a young woman in her early twenties, who recently just lost her grandmother. She finds herself alone in the world, without any family, but ends up finding another. She ends up meeting Yuichi Tanabe, a college classmate and also a part time employee at a flower shop her grandmother would frequent to. He worries about Mikage’s condition after the loss of her grandmother, and him and his mother, Eriko, welcome her into their family. Mikage ends up finding solace within the kitchen, as she prepares meals for Eriko and Yuichi. Though the kitchen offers her some comfort, she still finds herself grieving and having negative thoughts.

 What makes this story even more special is that it’s about this family which isn’t the typical nuclear family. It’s made up of Mikage who isn’t blood related, and Eriko a transgendered father-to-mother of Yuichi. Though not the typical family that’s represented in most literary works, they are still a family nonetheless, as you see the way they treat each other and their dynamic within the home. Mikages first person narration allows us to see those around her through her eyes, and shows us what’s in her heart. The descriptions she gives us, allows our perspectives of the other characters to be similar to hers, causing us to have a closer relationship with the characters.

The novel Kitchen is filled with mysticism, relationships, love, and grief. The first person narration allows you to feel the emotions of the protagonist, and understand her experience and feelings more. Kitchen grabs your attention from beginning to end, with its characters, events, and details. It’s a book that can be read over and over again, and still be good every single time.

-Gabrielle O’Connor

The Inferno and the Combatant

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Floetry Fridays with Nicole

This week’s poem is called “A Ballad of Hell” written by John Davidson, and was one of my personal favorites growing up in a horror-obsessed household…Thanks dad. Anyways, the themes of this poem are around betrayal, self-identity, but most importantly strength. A woman is led to believe that by committing a love-suicide she will be able to freely be with her lover, who is “forced” to wed his cousin. However, it turns out that while she keeps her side of the bargain, she wakes up in hell and is told by the Devil that he is not there and lied. She stays in hell in denial of her lover’s plot to be rid of her and only after what could be a millennium of waiting for him, she realizes that he will never come and that she deserves better. The inferno is not meant for her pitied and tricked soul, but instead she knows she should be in a place of light and marches up towards the gates of heaven.

This twisted, sad and somewhat scary poem deals with the everyday tales of people succumbing to tragic lives because of their inability to understand their self-worth. Many go seeking the darkness because of temptations that they cannot escape. The need to satisfy this craving of love that they believe is the only answer to happiness. However, that is not the case. This woman finally understood that she deserved better than to burn in hell for someone who did not care nor love her back, and that her misery will not be his win. Instead, she grew the strength to march OUT OF HELL itself and tell the tortured beings that she will not be another victim to burn alone in the depths of a place that has never defined her soul. Her resilience even in death, is something that is inspiring and should be emphasized during the realm of life.

This poem is the yin and yang of reality. That sometimes things do not end the way we hope and instead of sacrificing ourselves to the hell in our minds, we should instead always find truth in our pain and use that to fight back. To know our worth, to not let a grand mistake cost us an eternity of suffering for the maliciousness of others. That our fates are always in OUR hands, even when it would appear all else has failed. This woman deserved that “hoarse, half-human cheer” and we all do too. Below is the link for anyone who wants to read this poem for themselves and feel the power of this woman’s bravery.

A Living Hell

Thursday Verseday with Arlinda

With Obscura’s card making event for Veterans fast approaching, this week’s blog will feature a poem from Obscura’s Spring 2013 edition depicting the struggles veterans face coming back home. Mary Ann Castle wrote “And Now Cerberus Snarls at the Door”, a powerful poem conveying the nightmares veterans face after arriving home. Instantly, the title caught my attention; in Greek mythology, Cerberus is the 3-headed guard dog of the underworld preventing the dead from escaping hell. Just picturing a creature that is fierce and feared, not to mention guarding the gates of hell, automatically hinted at the speaker’s tone throughout the poem.

In Mary Ann Castle’s poem “And Now Cerberus Snarls at the Door” the speaker states, “Three times deployed/ three times returned…no job can I get/ with this history/ drugs soothe/ alcohol dulls/ anger mounts in my throat/ everything has been stolen from me/ and now Cerberus snarls at the door.” Throughout the poem, the speaker outlines the tragedies faced in combat during the three deployments. These lines stood out to me because they convey the feeling of loss; the loss felt in war, and the loss of oneself while trying to regain life after coming home.

So many individuals fight to protect this country, to protect our freedom and our lives while risking their own. Next week, March 29th at 3:30-5pm in the faculty dining room at Lehman College, Obscura is presenting a card making event to thank veterans for all they have risked and lost while protecting this country. The speaker in Mary Ann Castle’s poem “And Now Cerberus Snarls at the Door” portrays the heartbreaking viewpoint of a veteran that has lost so much only to realize they have come home and lost the life they could have lived.

All are welcome to come join Obscura next Wednesday to help us thank the Bronx Veterans who have risked their lives to protect this country and its citizens. We hope to see you there!

~Arlinda Mulosmanaj


The Island of The Day Before

A Violent storm in the South Pacific, in the year 1643, leaves Roberto della Griva shipwrecked. He finds refuge on the ship Daphne, which is anchored by an island, and  he finds the ship to be abandoned yet mysteriously filled with provisions. As he explores the abandoned ship he also remembers the past as he begins to recalls his childhood, his imaginary evil brother Ferrante, the war in which he and his father fought, the siege, and his encounters and lessons with various characters.  The novel The Island of The Day Before, by Umberto Eco, provides a true full on experience of the Renaissance age; Love letters, dramatic battles, sword fights, and sea exploration. What’s most appealing about this book is the relationship between the narrator and the protagonist, Roberto. The narrator does his job to tell the story, and then some, by clarifying and upholding the truth whenever Roberto’s imagination and ego causes confusion within the story. The narrator’s sardonic tone adds a bit of comedy to the story, even in times of tragedy.

Roberto follows the philosophy of the philosopher Pierre Gassendi, who teaches that intellect is gained by experience through the senses, which is a philosophy which we see present within Roberto’s dreams and experiences.

Later on in the story, Roberto joins a group of great thinkers, and then is later framed for a crime he did not commit. He is given a chance for freedom by the Cardinal Mazarin, which is to become a spy on a ship where a mysterious man, by the name Dr. Byrd, is rumored to have discovered a way to determine longitude while at sea. While embarking on his mission, and after finding out the secret behind Dr.Byrds method, the ship is destroyed. Roberto is  the only survivor, and finds himself on the ship Daphne where he finds himself embarking on a new adventure, full of mystery, friendship, and tragedy.

This novel is filled with romance, comedy, tragedy, insight, philosophy, and adventure all wrapped into the story of one man. The story begins to build its momentum after a few chapters, and soon you find yourself immersed in the story of Roberto, and the mysteries which surround him.

Transitory Nature

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Floetry Flashback Fridays with Nicole

      On this week’s “Floetry Flashbacks”, we are looking at a poem by Claribel Tejada called “I Wait For My Time To Go” published in Obscura’s Spring 2013 magazine issue. This poem is centered around mortality and the narrator’s stance on how he/she is embracing death, rather than dreading it. Death, is a topic of conversation that many fear and is considered extremely taboo to some. However, to others it is something natural and the inevitable. That instead of being afraid of the unknown, that we should live our lives as best we can with some sort of self-fulfillment. In this poem, this person has done just that. They are in fact ready to move on and leave behind the life they lived with grace.

The lines “Following my sweet old beau/For me there is no spring of May/Almost time to be put below” puts into perspective why this person is waiting to pass on. Their beau seems to be long gone and because of that spring is no longer the same. The beauty in change of seasons, the blossoming of flowers, smell of fresh dew and the bright patterns of a butterfly is no longer enjoyable. Instead everything is a desolate wasteland because the one you love is just a memory. There is no one to share time with, instead of fading and ageing away alone. The narrator continues to repeat the lines “Almost time to be put below” and “I want for my time to go” that gives life to the sense of desperation to be free. That death is consolation for someone who has endured the passage of time and now wants to rest and be with the ones they love.

The reality of death is something that breaks barriers across cultures because it is something everyone has in common; we are all human. Everyone feels loss and embraces life differently. Everyone can relate to the pain of not appreciating the beauty of the world around them, when there feels like a void is missing. How can we continue as people to live, when we feel like we have served our purpose? This is a question that many might struggle with and universally lingers in the back of the minds of those who reach an enlightened level of wisdom. Not everyone gets the opportunity to live out their days and see things prosper and fall around them in a continuous cycle. However, the question remains: Is death really the big bad wolf of mortality, or is it just a constant reminder that we should live life fully? That instead of being alarmed at the unknown, we should just see it as a door that is always there, but is just not ready to be walked through yet. That time is never promised, but instead given to us to love, hope, dream, etc. and it should be treated as that soulmate that we all want to be with forever.



Is it a Winter Wonderland?

Thursday Verseday with Arlinda   

William Wordsworth once said “that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” While dealing with a rough commute after the recent snowstorm, I began to think, how would I view this snowstorm a day from now, or a few days from now? Would I be annoyed that my car needed to be shoveled, or would I remember the beauty of a newly created winter wonderland? Would I write a poem displaying the harsh effects of the snowstorm, or one depicting the joy of having a snow day? According to Wordsworth, sometimes emotions are too powerful, and one needs to recollect one’s emotions when they have had a moment to relax and think.

In Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” the speaker looks back on a site they visited five years ago and contemplates the appreciation they feel for nature. Some of my favorite lines in the poem include, “I have owed to them/ In hours of weariness, sensations sweet/ Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart/ And passing even into my purer mind/ With tranquil restoration.” Whenever I read these lines, I wonder how strongly nature impacts an individual person, and how would we feel about nature if we recollected our thoughts in a moment of peace, much as the speaker in this poem. The speaker in Wordsworth’s poem conveys the idea that nature has the ability to make him calm and lower his blood pressure as he reminisces, in a moment of tranquility, the beautiful landscapes near Tintern Abbey.

After rereading this poem, I realized the calming effects nature could have on individuals. I thought about the snowstorm the other day and how magical the world looked with a blanket of white falling to cover the land. I realized that while Wordsworth may not have meant the exact same thing by “emotion recollected in tranquility”, I was able to look back on the snowstorm with positive and peaceful feelings. If I were to write a poem based on my recollection of the snowstorm now, it would be more of a ‘hey it’s a winter wonderland’ as opposed to ‘hey it’s a cold and icy land.’

Wordsworth taught future poets to appreciate nature, and to realize that sometimes emotions are too powerful to be written in the moment. His poems convey the wisdom one can find within the natural world. Thanks to Wordsworth, I appreciate the recent snow day, and the sting of cleaning ice off of my car is just a little less than it was yesterday. Read Wordsworth for yourselves, and let his poems paint a picture of a serene natural environment; maybe you’ll even be inspired to write your own poem, after recollecting your emotions in a moment of peace, and after reading one of Wordworth’s poems, of course!