Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Discussion Log about Mary Oliver's Poetry

After reading two hundred and fifty-five pages of Mary Oliver’s poetry, I can firmly say that she prefers images of the natural world and portraits of non-human entities, and I don’t think that anyone would or could refute that claim.

In her images, we can see a slight difference from her earlier poems and her later poems. In the later poems, the narrator is not as closely integrated with nature as he or she is in the earlier poems. For instance, in the “Kookaburras,” the birds ask the narrator to be let out of their cages. The connection between the narrator and the birds is suggested by communication; however, the narrator refuses to let the kookaburras out of their cage. He or she says “no” and “walk[s] away.” From this negation, the narrator’s communication and connection with the kookaburras is diminished. This allows questions about the relationship between humans and non-human entities to arise: to what extent, if any, should humans interact with non-human entities? A question about duty can be raised from Oliver’s poem too: to what extent, if any, is a human’s duty to a non-human entity?
In the poem, “The Fish,” the narrator shows a full integration with nature when she or he catches and eats a fish: “the sea/ is in me: I am the fish, the fish/ glitters in me.” The narrator becomes a part of nature, not an individual entity separate from it. This connection to nature is also apparent in the poem “Sleeping in the Forest.”  In this poem, the narrator cloaks nature in human clothing: “her dark skirts, her pockets/ full of lichens and seeds.” Consequently, the description of the narrator is the opposite. He or she is described in terms of natural imagery: “I slept as...a stone on a riverbed.” From this, we can see that the narrator is one with nature, and nature is one with the narrator. This is also illustrated by the last line where the narrator’s egocentric I “vanished at least a dozen times/ into something better.” The “something better,” I suspect, is the connection between the natural world and the narrator, but it is also the mystery nature holds. In the previous poem, the narrator mentions this mystery as one that we are “nourished” by.  

A large portion of Oliver’s poetry is based on the same form:
Her lines are positioned in a downward falling quatrain that is done in syllabic meter.

From this type of form, the syllabic meter is the trickiest to spot, but it is there if we listen to her lines. For instance, in “Moccasin Flowers,” the first quatrain is

All my life,   
    so far,
         I have loved
            more than one thing.    

Listening to the sound of the lines or counting the syllables in the lines, we find that the syllables waver up and down. This produces variety, and, I suspect, Oliver did this for more than one reason.

One last item on craft I want to mention: Oliver likes to use repetition. In many poems, the repetition creates an incantatory quality that is akin to other poets, including Ginsberg, Whitman, etc., but the use of incantation is closer to pagan rituals that celebrate the human and the non-human world.

Oliver is a consistent poet, and she is more consistent than any other poet that I have read.  Her later poems contain the same forms and subject matter as her earlier work, except for her first published volume which focuses more on man-made stuff, particularly houses, than nature. By limiting herself to the same subject matter and same forms, Oliver may be doing herself and others a benefit because this allows her to hone her craft and find solid subject matter; however, at the same time, she limits herself to her own known forms and subject matter. This seems to me a paradox only the author can understand.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Should I Become a CNA?

I've been thinking about trying to find a new career. I've been working for a communications company and writing about poetry for a long time. And I'm kinda tired of it. I've been thinking of becoming a certified nursing assistant or even an registered nurse. I wrote 10 reasons (I guess trying to convince myself) why I should become a CNA or an RN.

1. To many RN aspirants, the first step to becoming a full-fledged nurse is usually via the CNA route. A CNA gets a closer foretaste of the RN profession, after devoting a relatively short period for training and certification. CNAs work in the same medical and healthcare settings as with registered nurses or other medical practitioners. Ever wonder how long it takes to be a CNA? 6 months. Also, did you ever wonder how long is nursing school? It takes two years to become a registered nurse.

2. To one those who find it difficult to make up their minds on pursuing a career in nursing, becoming a CNA first could be a crucial element in the decision-making process. Being able to work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, nursing homes, and assisted-living centres allows one to experience the nursing field up close.

3. While a CNA’s job belongs in the same classification as orderlies and attendants, they are allowed to assist, every so often, in minor medical procedures under the supervision of an experienced or senior registered nurse. Their responsibilities and tasks vary from conveying, nourishing, and helping patients in their daily care, exercise regimens, and proper hygiene.

4. The work of a CNA helps build and develop a person’s strength and character. Over time, you will learn to be emotionally mature and physically strong, and you will develop compassion and patience to care for the sick, the old, the weak, and the disabled.

5. There are more than 1.5 million employed CNAs as of May 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. CNAs have bright prospects ahead, with growth rising faster than the average for all occupations in the country. BLS forecasts 21% growth between 2012 and 2022. I also like that I could go to school and become an RN, which has more growth. I read that an RN does not have to work in a hospital, either. There are non clinical nursing jobs outside the hospital for RNs.

6. For the short training and certification process involved, CNAs get decent pay. Their median pay as of 2012 was $11.97 per hour or $24,890 per year. This annual median indicates that 50% of people working in this occupational group earn below this median, while the other 50% earns more than this median. The top earners are those who work in federal executive branches earning as high as $35,950 per year. Other top-paying industries for CNAs are insurance carriers, junior colleges, universities and professional schools, and state government, where CNAs earn at least $31,000 a year. The top-paying states are Alaska, New York, Nevada, Connecticut and Massachusetts. So if you live in these states, CNAs are paid higher here than in most other states.

7. Nursing care facilities or skilled nursing facilities hire four times more CNAs than RNs. This is where CNAs find the highest demand for their profession. The hourly mean wage in these institutions is $12.01, slightly higher than what CNAs receive on the average. General medical and surgical hospitals, on the other hand, hire only 1 CNA in every 4 RNs. The hourly mean wage for CNAs in these medical institutions is much higher than average, though, at $13.53.

8.  CNAs who get the opportunity to work in federal executive branches enjoy greater stability in their work. Aside from their higher pay, as mentioned above, their benefits may also include retirement packages and 401K plans.

9. For persons who love traveling, becoming a CNA may provide an opportunity to combine travel and work. There are CNAs who become traveling nursing assistants. This job provides higher pay, travel and perks, and the excitement that is otherwise not present in the mundane nature of the regular CNA job.

10. If those reasons have not yet clinched your decision yet, here’s another one. Training to become a CNA can take as short as 6 weeks only, although there are longer programs. For instance, the state of California requires at least 150 hours of training, inclusive of classroom and clinical instruction, while the American Red Cross requires 160 hours. Acceptance to the CNA program does not require you to have a high school diploma or equivalent GED. It does, however, require a clean slate – background check on felonies, crimes, and drug-related issues will be quite stringent. Licensing involves two steps – a written test about concepts and a practical test about actual skills learned.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You’ve got ice cream on your beard!

I'm taking a break from poetry this week and trying to have a little fiction fun, so here goes.

I’m not one for making homemade ice creams – I simply didn’t find the need; they’re easier bought, not to mention yummier.

Until I had a tiny tot walking around the house asking if I knew how to make ice cream. “Of course,” I said, which meant I had a vague idea. The little devil didn’t stop there, but insisted that he didn’t think I could. Little bundles can pose big challenges with their innocent (don’t trust that one minute) look and matter-of-fact one liners. “Of course you can’t,” he said dryly and left playing in the yard.

I didn’t have an ice cream maker (like I said, I didn’t find the need but I do have a lot of ceramic cookware I've bought piece-meal after reading too many reviews). I found one recipe on the Internet which seemed to be the easiest one. The ingredients were right in my pantry. So I gathered everything (around 4-5 ingredients). It involved whipping a heavy cream in a bowl until it formed stiff peaks. (I could not find a mixing bowl so I used a stock pot from my nonstick cookware set.) Then I mixed a half cup of peanut butter and condensed milk in a bowl, folded the mixture into the cream, added some chocolate chips my wife uses for baking desserts, and placed the mixture in the freezer.

I spent most of the day writing afterwards. There was a nanny watching the kiddo so I was left to my quiet and peace. Soon, I have forgotten about the ice cream and everyone else when he walked by and said that it was so hot and wished that someone knew how to make ice cream. We lived quite a distance from the nearest grocer and it needed someone to make a business of driving out to buy anything. I laughed and told him that I made myself an ice cream while he was away. “No, you didn’t,” he insisted.

I went to the fridge and scooped ice cream, sliced one ripe banana, arranged everything on an ice cream plate, garnished with corn cereals, and criss-crossed with chocolate syrup on top. It looked professional. I sat and placed my feet on the Ottoman and started with my banana split with homemade chocolatey peanut butter ice cream. I didn’t mind him but I knew his eyes went big. I heard him gasp but was mostly speechless (for a change). In short, I went for another trip to the fridge, with the young fellow at my elbow. He followed my every move, almost meekly (which he wasn’t, I’m sure). He happily squirted the chocolate syrup on his banana split. We then gaily went to the patio and enjoyed our frozen treat.

The ice cream did turn out great, it was smooth and soft. But it was too sweet for me; not for the other person, though. He went back for more, without the banana. After demolishing everything, obviously a satisfied customer, he sat beside me and said that the ice cream was so good. That was a big compliment considering his earlier snooty stance. He was suddenly friendly; even wiped some ice cream off my beard. But then he had to return to his old mien; I say that it must be his default setting. “The ice cream was so good you couldn’t have made it yourself,” he said and left. Huh?!