1. Two reminders about the weeks ahead: (1) your practice open essay is due on Monday night; (2) our graded open essay will be written in class on TU March 5.
  2. There are some good, cogent questions, answers, and suggestions about writing the APLit “open question” essay in your APLit prep book. They can be found on pp. 11-13 and 63-65. Please consult these pages over the weekend as you ready your practice essays for submission on Monday night.
  3. We will finish our scene by scene viewing, reading of MacBeth on TU of next week, which will allow us to then segue into taking a close look at Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese version of the play: Throne of Blood. There will be some background reading to accompany our work, as well as some IWs. If you would like to get a leg-up on some of this reading you can start with the following (HOWEVER: NOTE THAT THESE READINGS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS AND LOTS OF THEM): pp. 280-86 of our Norton Critical Edition of the play: the excerpt entitled “Scotland, Japan” from Peter Holland’s essay “‘Stands Scotland Where It Did?”: The Location of MacBeth on Film.” Then you can move on to the excerpt from Robert Hapgood’s essay “Kurosawa’s Shakespeare Films: Throne of BloodThe Bad Sleep Well, and Ran” found in the book Shakespeare and the Moving Image. This essay will be emailed to you as a scan.

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we/th: west by true west…

  1. Just a reminder. You are responsible for being familiar enough with the text of True West  such that you could take a “reading” quiz on it if asked to do so. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to read the play, though I’d certainly recommend at least skimming through it with some care as we watch the Steppenwolf production. And this is, of course, why I have provided you with a scan of the play’s text. The production of the play that we are viewing is completely faithful to the text of the play; there are no omissions or edits. One section of the play’s text that i would recommend you looking at are the very particular character descriptions and detailed stage directions that precede the play. They are absolutely vital and need to be absorbed. Simply looking at a production of the play will probably not suffice in this one area.
  2. Here’s a quote from an article by Jeffrey D. Hoeper (partially referencing an essay on the play by Tucker Orbison; both found in the journal Modern Drama) on True West: “[There are]… three levels of mythic response… the mythic west of the cowboy; the mythic ‘mystery of the artist’ in which the writer delves into the self to explore archetypal conflicts ‘fraught with the terrors of nightdreaming’; and finally the mythic conflict of the doppleganger, the second self, as revealed in the role reversal of Lee and Austin at the play’s  crisis…”

    And then there is a fourth possibility: the myth of the “story of Cain and Abel — in the Byronic variant in which Cain, the peaceful tiller of the soil, is a sympathetic figure, while Abel, the smug slaughterer of sheep, is inexplicably favored by a bloodthirsty deity…”

  3. First off what exactly is a doppelganger? Click. I think it is pretty clear how our plays fits into a kind of “doppleganger” mythic construct.
  4. And just in case you need to revisit the Cain/Able story from the Judeo-Christian “Book of Genesis”… click.
  5. One other compelling interpretation of the play (and the one that goes back to our initial informal writing about an extremely realistic dream that we’ve experienced) sees the overall work, despite it ultra-realistic setting in a suburban Los Angeles home, as a dreamscape, a place where one single mind, the mind of the author Sam Shepard, is attempting to forge out of the raw materials of his dreaming brain some kind of coherent, “whole” identity: for such an artist “there is a rent in his relation with the world,” as well as “a disruption of his relationship with himself, he does not experience himself as a complete person but rather as split in various ways, perhaps as… two or more selves or so own…” The quotes are from a book called The Divided Self, by the philosopher/psychiatrist R.D. Laing and are used in an essay on the play by William Kleb. Essentially, in this interpretation of the play, the entire piece is an extended dream in which the two main characters of Lee and Austin are differing extensions of Sam Shepard, himself, and the play is an attempt through fantasy to bring together the divided halves of his single, rugged, thoroughlyAmerican individuality.

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(based on Tony’s “A Day”)


The poem slouched
In an idea,
Like this…
Watch Othello’s film
The one he shot of the three ladies
Sprawled among daisies
Their every motive
Reduced to the empty
Languid space
Between their legs
Or nothing
And only actions
Are validated
And only actions

Then repeat.
Watch it again

But don’t
About it.
Don’t you

An idea engineered
Through misuse.
Now that’s an idea.
For a poem?
For an unintentional search?
A blind one
In which you’re merely hoping
To find yourself
As a munched ear
Of corn on the cob
Hot off the grill to boot. 

And yet did I wrong
Anyone in writing
About that?
Did I deny your past
Your present?
Your cold devil
Your over-heated agency
Until a reduction
To whatever
Velvety sauce
Is achieved?

The most difficult task
After all is abiding
The simmer
Unleashing the necessary
And just be confident
In the outcome
Which is certainly out there
No matter what’s
In here.

Just you wait.

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E pluribus unum is my middle name  But no one knows my first
Then there is the third one  They call it the surname?  That right?
Mostly it’s the sensation that numbers add up but letters don’t
I don’t know about you but I am often amidst the letters plain lost
Lost  Smitten  Half-present  Half-baked  Mostly true  Totally blank
That’s me  In a nutshell  And in fact “Nutshell” is the first name
I could not remember above  I wonder  Do you?  Did you know
that “I wonder” is my favorite line from Waiting for Godot?
It comes the moment Didi repeats the question Gogo’s put
forward at least three times already  And I could not name it,
The answer to my first question  Though I can say it  It’s yes
And then the letters would appear to line up perfectly in the flesh
And legible  They don’t stay that way though  Mostly a totally blank zero
they are  But yes  That line’s my favorite  And Godot rhymes with Gogo.

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The Bledsoe twins, Ivy and Iris, were day nurses.
They married Lyman and LeFaye Freeman, who were brothers but not twins, at a double wedding.
Coming out the druggist’s, Kirby snapped his ankle.
Birdlegs Biddle diagrammed sentences on the overhead (subject, verb, predicate)
modifiers rooted in like moles below the baseline.
We had a sweet-hearted carpenter named Hubert.
Ed ruled the Texaco, the South Y one, with an iron fist – though beneath the paper towel
wiping down our windshield, while the gas flowed in, his palm was baby’s butt pink.
Both big churches employed Troy Downer as Head Janitor.
Alton Beason and Bull Bowers presided over barbershops.
One morning, the Meadow Gold milkman, a balding gent named Ernest, saved our duck from
drowning in the kitchen sink.
There was an Erskine who did the title work for Probate Judge Pat Tate.
Fletcher was the forest ranger.
Corky came over and sprayed the centipedes ransacking our basement.
After another seizure, Missy just flat passed out.
The flower shop was operated by Pauline Floyd.
Ruby penned the gossip column.
Piano lessons were Ann Elzey’s bread and butter.
Everyday, Roenna battled a pen full of first graders.
Bea White the thirds.
The mayor was a mortician named Hoyt.
There was R.L., the king of dips in the weight-room, as well as O.H., H.C., T.B., and N.Z.
Beep and Toot, the crew-cut Hess brothers.
And Ag-Head Brown, whom I never met, was the center on my dad’s junior-high basketball
The boys called one of the substitute teachers Jelly-Belly.
Just call me Dave boys was the typical calm reply.
Some highway department guy told me his boss was the implacable Pickle.
Ellis coached the Wildcats.
Defensive coordinator and key assistant: Quentin.
Smut got caught stealing burger patties from the Curb Market’s walk-in freezer.
Benjy got his act together and became a lawyer, shocked us all.
After the tornado tore through, Jerry Senior, sold dry ice door to door.
Haskel flipped records.
His brother Wayland coughed blood one day scrubbing pans at the bakery.
Mr. John Greene Chambers cut the tires on an automobile one night in June, his own
automobile: go figure.
Ventris had more freckles than a trout’s belly.
While cleaning his shotgun, John Paul blew out his parents’ living room bay window.
Janice was caught urinating in the neighbor’s henhouse.
Every Wednesday evening, Cornelia went down to lead the choir practice.
Dermot ran the bank.
Chip’s father most surely had a name, but I never knew it.
Arizona dropped her baby girl in the fireplace in 1943 and that was the end of that.
Gladys revealed her gall bladder scar to Judge Dickey.
Caspar headed the garbage detail.
People swore by Wyatt’s powers as a dowser.
Madge survived her son’s death at the hands of her husband, his own father no less.
Late one summer night, Marly scraped up some venison hash – hoping to ambush a
Estelle received a phone call from Peru.
Birch headed up Cliff Dingler’s small-motor outfit.
Burma was a doctor who never doctored a day in her life.
Reese sold Fords.
Ida manufactured tube-socks.
After completing the 8th grade, Queen Ester moved to Memphis where she died of Sickle
Cell Anemia at the age of twenty-two.
There was a lady named Bill.
Another named Clyde.
A tarantula of a man – six foot, nine inches – who went by Pearl.
Another Clyde, who was a man, had kidney issues.
The aforementioned Bill blew her brains out one Thursday afternoon as a way to postpone
having another protracted argument with her elder daughter.
Dottie’s fingers throbbed arthritically, even as she kept her grand piano slick with Pledge.
Much to everyone’s relief, Ramona finally decided to marry Moose.
Mrytle retired after 58 years of keeping at it.
Lovelace bounced back from twice getting the axe.
Clementine was the one girl amongst nine siblings.
Skinny Parker was, in point of fact, skinny.
Butterball was fat.
Scarlet most certainly possessed a wilderness of red hair.
Lib was a Democrat; the kind they call a yellow-dog.
Candy’s sweet tooth was infamous.
And Daisy operated a dairy.
On the other hand, Hy was nothing short of an asshole.
And Boo accepted the Miss Congeniality honor at five separate beauty pageants.
Aunt Lizzie lay in bed, a brain tumor protruding from the plate of her forehead the size of a
Wanda Wampler drove her car into the canyon.
Clete suffered a massive stroke.
Most people said Granny Dollar died of meanness.
Archie of heatbreak.
Elvie MacCracken had the gall to die, what with four kids barely out of their swaddling
Orson ate rat poison.
Tallulah just plain ate – a lot.
Rafer kept a still, until it blew up and blew both his arms off with it, killing him.
The Governor’s office murdered Lurleen.
Millicent started talking to the painting in the living room of Curtis, her long-dead cat, and it
was all and quickly downhill from there.
Lung cancer caught up to Clayton.
Cirrhosis to Emma.
Gordie Goldthreat, while changing out an oil filter, was mashed to death by one of the
Firestone radial tires rolling beneath the heft of his Galaxy 500.
The neighbor’s discovered Beanie’s corpse.
Blanche Bear slipped on ice.
Darnell Albright spent three years at Bryce and the gossip was she guzzled down a can of
Liquid Drano while convalescing with her son’s family in Cairo, Illinois.
Truth was she died in her sleep.
Had Lucian, her reclusive son, become aware of the Drano rumor, he probably wouldn’t
have uttered a word.
In 2009, the swine flu carried him off to glory.
Sparkle Greene just wasted away.


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A chicken
the road

the night-



He leapt
from High

pink and cream
green on yellow

his body
bobbed up


Bacon is the belly
of a pig though this evening
the sky looked like bacon


The patient’s
he said,
could weather

the approaching
Or did he say wither?


Whether approaching
or not
the storm

I mean.


or not

as in the storm,
I mean. It

was merely
the liver’s


To wither
Or not.

A withered
storm was the hope

each mind’s


gathered together

in the square
little room

No matter the


Or whether
it would

or wither.
And whether

was a cloud
out there


on patient

weathering, and

my mind.










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Killed off all the ghosts, did you?
Swept clean the attic, dusted
the doorsills top to bottom, those
flared little hips of painted woodframe
that lure one into bedroom or kitchen
or bath. As if the house’s each and every room
were bower, comfort station, oasis,
bliss incarnate, spewing all manner
of clamberings, some joyful, others
entrenched in mourning. Why
are they mourning? We do not know.
It’s the mystery kept in every dogwood
bough, a springtime blizzard of pink,
Brittle as giggles, cloaking the misery
that Jesus lay down and nailed himself
to it. Oh yes he did it to himself.

This is where charisma gets you,
like Bobby Kennedy down on a kitchen floor,
looking up into stainless steel sky
and copper pot clouds and the cameras
rolling, “Keep it rolling,” someone
is shouting, “goddammit, rolling,”
and the kid operating the camera
weeping as he does his job! You can
hear that too. And how exciting
is that, folks! To be blessed with such
specific instructions, and in the face
of horror, even death. He hung on
for four maybe five days
until my mother said he’d only,
even if he lived, be a vegetable.
I thought Bobby Kennedy would have been
a carrot, not a potato or cabbage,
nor did the thought of him as a green bean
enter my head even though that’d always
been my favorite, especially the method
Elvie MacCracken used to cook them
slamming a huge metal spoonful
of luscious bacon grease with them
into the bubbling pot. He would have been
a carrot though. Brilliant, orange, proud
high foreheads of greenery perched
and jaunty before the sous-chef’s trim.
In fact, he was not one carrot, but three –
a bunch! – pressed together by rubber band.
The cruel fact is there will always be such
cobwebs and every attempt to sweep
is already futile even before the whiskers
are raised and brought down with the lovely
brisk chuff of a single wind. And low as the little
carrots percolated in her guts, did she touch
her mid-drift time after time and whisper
or chant a homely ditty so as to better wrest
him out of the ground and into the trumpeting
blare of world seared in sunlight without end.


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The sink plugged up


Remove the strainer,


Fill the pot, the 8 quart one, bring to boil,

Don mitts, pour

Straight down



It sits settles in and descends invisibly,

The water


But once down beneath the drainhole’s rim

It’s progress comes to light

In slow deliberate sips


Like the death of an eye

Still throbbing from the blow

No bubbles


You could watch for hours


The gravity of home






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Normally the score gets settled. The earth,
after all is said and done, gets it right,
an arrow straight to the bull’s heart. In fact,
as we speak, things are about as settled
as ever. We move on to the bigger
and better, just like they say. There is no
reason to think any other way is
out there. One other avowal spat out
like a ham sandwich is “It all happens
just as it’s supposed to,” like those obstinate
connections stapling you to every tree,
placard, license plate, dumb pedestrian,
vacant lot on lot growing to seed, bleeding
in a stream past the panes of your hastening
bus in cords of pleated, pliable light.
No stark inclination, no beveled inkling
was, is, or will be as pure as this one.
There was the week three friends lay in coma.
Just happenstance. One induced. Two brought on
by brute blunt force. One more second ticks by
and there is no other way to say this,
except to say “This is all that is there,”
no matter when she wakes up. There are shocks,
dunkings in ice baths, and hypodermics
brimming with golden adrenaline pearls.
A wager upon wager til the frayed
unavoidable caput. Two of them,
in fact, splashed to the glad surface. The third,
according to the principles by which
our late mournings get articulated,
arrived blinking and upright on a shore,
if anything, kindlier and more vast.






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Insufficient Funds


A kid dressed up as a clown.
It was the Christmas day parade.
A cold early winter rain poured
intermittently. But they were
out there anyway. The grownups
(his dad included) were also
clowns. They were setting off firecrack-
ers and other small explosives.
And they’d quickly gotten themselves
frustrated, finagled, absorbed.
It was far too wet for this. His
job was throwing into the crowds
packets of hard candy. The hoards
of people were launching their hands
in his direction, and crying
for candy, more candy. It was
an elevation within he
had never before felt. Then he
sidled over to this one parked
car. The man inside amongst what
might have been a dozen squealing
progeny cried to him “Just fill
these here hands up with that candy.”
But he only had one piece left
in his bag. Even so he dropped
that single piece, a grape jawbreaker,
into the man’s cupped together
hands. It felt terrible. Even
after the man  kicked back his head
and laughed. It didn’t feel better
even a bit. He tried to run
back to get some more. But when he
turned he heard his dad yelling “Get
out of the way now. What kind of
numb skull stunt are you trying to
pull.” And the huge John Deere hauling
the North Pole float, Elves, the Mrs.,
jolly Santa too, bringing up
the rear, already bearing down
on all ahead, including clowns.


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