For our english unit, we had to create something called a “listener lyric” after we read a book called “Citizen”. It was a book about African American struggle in the United states and the social problems that they undertake. Making a “listener lyric” was going to be about recreating one of these lyrical essays and creating a sort of combination of nonfiction, storytelling, and poetry. We started by interviewing people that we found suited the role of our litener lyric. We found people with struggles that they felt were effecting their social lives. I personally talked to my stepfather. He is african american and constantly goes through social issues every day for the color of his skin.

I asked him qeustions about his social life and his experience in the bay area compared to that of an area such as Ohio, which was where he used to live as a kid. He came back with some very interesting responses. Here was the transcript:

Topic – Coming to a community where you are alone

Date – 10/14

What was the difference coming from Ohio? From here to Ohio, being a minority?

The bay area is very diverse, all kinds of people from all over the world. Asian, southeast asian, latino, mexican. But very few black people. Whereas the midwest, in the east coast, it’s mostly white and black, with the other races being the lesser populations. So coming here it was very strange. I heard how diverse it was, but when I got here I never saw any black people. It’s very funny to think that there is diversity, even when there isn’t any black people. I was raised, everything was black and white. That was the biggest difference. The other difference was the temperature. Most of California is semi arid, so desert like,.  It’s hot during the day and cold during the night, even in the summer. Every other part of the world its hot during the day and warm during the night. So you can walk outside with shorts and a tank top. Sit outside. Coming here I could never get used to having to put on a jacket even in the summer. And then most of everywhere else is very green. If you go to Maryland or Tennessee or any other place it’s super green. The foliage, the grass, and out here you go to a beautiful place like stanford and everything is dry and brown. Different but still beautiful

Does it become an issue living in a place like this? In terms of race?

Engineer and an attorney. Doing engineer stuff. There’s not many black people here, and there’s not many people in that area of work. So basically everywhere I go, I’m the only black person. A board room, board meeting, so that can make it challenging sometimes. So what i tell people, most people don’t even think about it. One time I was at a bar with a friend one time and he was like “ohh!” you know it was like los gatos super… you know mostly caucasians. He wanted to go and talk to these girls. I said that was a great idea but i don’t know how they are. He said “what do you mean?”  I had to explain it to him. He said “wow I had never even thought in those terms before.” cause he’s never had them. So I tell people, if you want to put yourself in my shoes, just imagine you took a plane somewhere in africa. A big city, whatever you want to think of. And everywhere you go you would probably be the only one or few white persons of each store, each movie or park. How would that make you feel? Most people feel uncomfortable right off the bat.

Is there a stereotypical negative connotation towards black people? 

Around here its a negative. People only stare at white people when its a positive. Because they are special. But if you were black it would be a negative. They may see you and have negative connotations.  Walking down the street if a woman is by herself, you can tell she’s gonna be apprehensive. She’ll think i’m some sorta, criminal or drug dealer or i’m gonna jump her or snatch her purse. Take her chains. Some don’t, but not all do. Some people say hello, some down. Some people just look down and rush by. So when I walk Koda (our dog) I just step off into the curb. If you’re in a big city and it’s late at night, it’s not unusual for there to be two of you on the street, it’s a white woman and you, you just cross the street. And go down the other side. You just don’t want to deal with it. Most black people have a negative connotation towards them. 

Describe a situation that happened?

Well my last name is sullivan, you can’t tell what race I am over the phone. So when I meet people they get a shock.  There’s not many black patent attorneys. Not that many black attorneys. 

The answers he gave proved to be very interesting. They gave me a perspective that I dont think I’ve ever thought of. I decied to just talk to him more one on one afterwards without a recording. He described all kinds of different stories and situations that happened to him and I decided to take this information and form it into a narrative lyrical essay. This was what I had created:

Ryan Wells

10/21

Blind Over the Phone

This is someone you’ve never met. You’ve been working as a patent attorney with Him for just A little less than a year, buT you have yet to see his facE. Over the phone, you can hear a buzzing coming from him, your client. Some sort of communication from something that you don’t know or some other language that is echoing through the line. You can’t quite comprehend it, but you can understand it somehow. You can picture it, but you can’t word it out in a sentence. Whoever is over the phone is having trouble as well. Almost as if they are hearing the same buzzing. It’s like a barrier, or some sort of shield that shuts you out from seeing and experiencing the other person. Whatever you see them to be, may be entirely different in the real world. You tell them that you can meet them at the restaurant down the road in 30 minutes for the first time for a business meeting. 

They suggest the bar in 15. 

So, you go to the bar in 10. There are only a few people in the bar once you get there. 

Your client gets there in 20 and you see them: regular business suit, tie, briefcase and short hair. Pale skin. 

You? Regular business suit, tie, briefcase and short hair. Skin a bit different. No matter?

It’s the first time you’ve seen this man. You’ve been talking to them over the phone for almost a year. You can see them walking around, scanning the room for his client. He seems confused. There are only a few people in the bar. Why should he be confused? You sit there awkwardly and begin to start raising your hand, trying to wave him down. He scans past you, still looking around and wondering where his partner is. Finally, he “catches sight of you” and his eyes widen. He begins to slowly walk over. He stops in his tracks and points at you, as if reassuring that you’re actually his partner. You nod your head and he rushes over. He apologizes for being late. 

“So sorry about that.”
But he also says

“I’m really sorry, but I’ve never really had a black patent attorney work for me before.”

He buzzes. 

Buzzes? The words coming out of his mouth seem incomprehensible. You can understand him, but it’s worse than before. You thought it was just over the phone.

You stop him from continuing.

“Well am I still in the right place?” 

He gives a confused look back.

“What?”

You continue, “I make a lot of money, sure, but I still work for you… Under you…”

He cocks his head, confused. You continue.

“Why are you surprised about that?”

You never hear from him again after that.

here is a picture I used to represent the lyrical essay.

Artist: Jean-Michel Basquiat

We also created a lyrical essay based off of a book. We would be allowed to choose any book that we liked and we were required to create a lyrical essay that mocks the style of the book. Then we wrote an essay about how our essay mocks this style. My lyrical essay was called “untitled”.

UNTITLED

There is a computer, shoved away in the corner of the room and lighting up a small portion of that appears like a missing corner of a wall. On one corner of the hole, it is walled by a desk and a cupboard and the other side there is the drywall and a bookcase. The computer is in some sort of jail cell where the bars are too large and the computer could easily grow legs and squeeze it’s way out. The ground of the corner is sprawled with pencils, pieces of dog hair and dimes, all lost over time. It glows in red LED and the exposed computer blows dust in every direction that the fans face.

There is an ominous, machinist humming pestering at all times. It breaths and growls unusually loud like a beast, no larger than an ottoman stacked on its side. It connects and powers two screens that work white surfaces, brighter than that of the lights in the room. They are always on, always humming, gleaming and luminating more than any other item in the room. They don’t need to be as bright and they surely shine brighter than they need to. The walls facing the computer glow a dark grey from the radiating light of the screens. But every now and then, the screens turn grey, turn black, and then white again. 

Underneath the desk there is a small part of space built into the table that crawls with serpentine wires and power cables. Like a bed of snakes turned to stone, the area is too small for them. It overflows and wires hang off the sides drooping almost to the floor. They all come off the platform to meet an outlet taped to the wall and the tape on top of the plug (obviously too small for the plug) is barely hanging onto the wall. 

The computer resonates a heat from it. So much so that a permanent extra fan has been established next to it. Whenever needed, it turns on and blows the hot air around the room, overturning its ultimate purpose. The computer contains the regular PC parts, a GPU, a CPU, a motherboard, etc. The CPU burns to the touch when worked and the dust sitting in the computer doesn’t help the cooling process for the fans. The SD drive is covered with a thick layer of dust and the GPU looks as if it is ready to fall out of the computer at any moment. 

It almost always feels like the computer is on its last stand every moment of the day. Humming and wheezing as if on its few last breaths. Every day it feels like another part of the computer is withering away from its use. But everytime the computer is on, it glows bright as always, works harder than before, and does everything it can to serve its purpose.

Even though the computer has been so misused, mistreated and possibly abused, it serves every purpose it was made for and serves every task. Without the computer, work would never get done, projects would never finish, and no one would entertain themselves with it. Without it, no one could pass school, no one could create amazing art projects with adobe and no one would ever be able to play the latest video games. No one could watch videos on how to do dimensional analysis for physics, or maybe how to create and shoot a potato cannon. Nobody could start virtual reality experiences and nobody could create screenplays and stories. Nobody could figure out plans for a future life with spreadsheets, or write essays for the college of my dreams. Without this computer, I don’t think I would have much left and I don’t think that my life would be just as easy. Despite its last stands and its mistreated appearance, it serves the best it has always. Its screens shine bright and light up my room to a glimmer that almost makes the walls shimmer with light. 

In a way, the computer lights a path for my life, and lights a picture for the future. I would not be as talented without it and I would not know nearly as much as I do now. The path that the computer seems to light seems to glimmer with opportunity and opens up a world of options that seems to absorb into directions of greatness. With the more that I do with this computer, the greater that my connections and knowledge becomes. The world around me seems to open up more and more as I use it and the greatness of intelligence seems to expand bigger and bigger by the day.

The day after I wrote this, I decided to clean the computer up. I took a box of tissues and cleaned up the inside of the computer for hours. I didn’t leave a spot uncleaned. There sat a pile of tissues covered in dust on my table after I was done. I sorted the wires to be more organized and installed an extra fan on the CPU. Maybe now the path, instead of glimmering can be a bit more clear (clean) for me.

Analysis

When one enters a museum, analyzing paintings, artworks, historical figures or items can be interesting and fun. In Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, Mark Doty takes this examination of an artwork and multiplies it to an unimaginable degree of detail, where we get to see the analysis of every small detail of a painting which includes that of oysters, and some lemon. We delve deep into the personal life of Mark Doty and the symbolism that interconnects life lessons and the features of the painting. 70 pages that consist of years of story from Mark’s life, and analysis of a painting consisting of subjects of food, “all which simply begs the question…why.[?]” (Doty 45). My own lyrical essay, “Untitled”, takes inspiration directly from this book and uses methods that mirror the same storytelling and analysis, where it heavily analyses a computer in my room and its ultimate contribution to my life. “Untitled” is heavily inspired by Mark Doty’s Still Life with Oysters and Lemon because of its intense, unnecessary, and almost ironic analysis of a certain item or art piece, and it’s callbacks to personal character.

Firstly, Mark Doty performs analysis of his piece incredibly well and almost overdoes it. With “untitled” almost the entire essay is consistent of analysis of one object, my computer. The analysis describes everything from the fans of the computer, to the wires that crawl underneath the desk: “Underneath the desk there is a small part of space built into the table that crawls with serpentine wires and power cables. Like a bed of snakes turned to stone, the area is too small for them. It overflows and wires hang off the sides drooping almost to the floor.” thus showing that the piece describes everything about the computer just like how Mark Doty describes even the smallest details. Mark Doty, uses this examination extremely well and describes the painting he examines in fantastic and strong ways that allow you to picture the painting without even seeing it. He says, “The lemon has been half-peeled, the wine tasted the bread broken; the oysters have been shucked, part of this great wheel of cheese cut away; the sealed chamber of the pie,held aloft on its raised silver stand, has been opened.Someone has left this knife resting the edge of the plate,its handle jutting toward us; someone plans, in a moment, to pick it up again” (Doty 40). ‘Untitled’ takes inspiration directly as a result of its descriptive properties and the way that Mark describes the painting. This quote shows us precisely what the painting looks like, like how ‘untitled’ describes the visuals of the computer. It uses metaphors that describe the way that the pie has a “sealed chamber”, much like how ‘untitled’ uses metaphors for the “serpentine wires”. 

Secondly, Untitled is inspired by Mark Doty because of its callbacks to personal character. Mark Doty sets up the intense detail of the book to call back to personal characteristics and story. He describes the stories so well that we get to see the life and family of Mark Doty. He says  “when I was a kid I had a toy, a “magic 8 ball”…turn the ball upside down, a message would float into view…”yes” the ball would answer, or”perhaps “ or”ask again later”. now I think there is a space in me that is like the dark inside that hollow sphere, and things float up into view, images that are vessels of meaning. the flotsam and detail of any particular moment. Vanished things” (Doty 26). This is a direct callback to a story in his life. He describes an eight ball that was a part of his childhood. All of this almost comes down to a simple irony. How could these intense, emotional callbacks relate back to a painting about still life with oysters and lemon? Doty even goes as far as to describe home life and the family that he lived with. He reflects, “her name is Lona, though I don’t know that, and won’t for years. Because this is East Tennessee, in the second half of the nineteen fifties, she is called Mamaw, and that’s the only name I have ever called her” (Doty 10). These descriptions are intensely emotional and take on an aspect of a nonfiction narrative. With ‘untitled’, there are simple callouts to certain characteristics of mine that branch off of what I use my computer for. The piece says “Without this computer, I don’t think I would have much left and I don’t think that my life would be just as easy.” This is a direct callback to my own life and how the computer serves a purpose in my own life story. Both pieces describe details that give off symbolism that is more than just paint or a piece of metal in a computer. They both describe their symbolic values and their importance to the authors in intense, unnecessary ways. The Lyrical Essay, ‘untitled’ takes heavy inspired from Mark Doty’s Still Life with Oysters and Lemon because of the intense emotion, ironic examination of details, and it’s callbacks to personal stories and characteristics.

For this project I found myself getting intersted in topics that I never really thought I would be interested in. These projects were interesting in ways that I was able to create a nonfictin story through my own research and information gathering. This project gave me a lot of control and also gave me inspiration. There are so many interesting stories out there that could fall underneath this type of creation and I only had done two.