Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Zero Point Agreement - Book Notes

The Zero Point Agreement - How to Be Who You Already Are by Julie Tallard Johnson is a book I discovered on Goodreads. 

A person I know read it and it looked intriguing. There is a lot of good information in it and I'm glad she posted that she was reading it. Below are the parts of the book I found relevant to me and/or that I wanted to remember.

- We can't follow someone else's hero path. We must pave our own paths through life. We can of course borrow from those who we discern have gone successfully before us, like Christ or Buddha, or poet and pacifist William Stafford, or author and environmentalist Aldo Leopold, who each paved their own way.

- Creativity, inspiration, and all that goes into living a meaningful life come, too, from our ability to distance ourselves from all that limits the expression of our free will.

- When someone or something outside ourselves directs our choices and experiences, we are not living life from our side and we are held captive by this limitation. When limited by our perceived choices for a prolonged stint of time, we become uninspired.

- An enduring lack of inspiration can lead to giving up, addiction, depression, hopelessness, and helplessness. We then get held back, too, by blaming others for our lack of happiness or success.

- People often create their life works from what they want but do not have - like how Jane Austen wrote of romantic love but lacked it in her life. Many poets write about what they long for. 

- Let go of the "right and wrong," the dogma, or someone else's way and walk your own life. Write your own story. Paint in your own way. 

Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing

There is a field

I will meet you there.

- Rumi, 13th century Persian poet

- When we experience ourselves as separate from natural phenomena, from each other, and from ourselves, we tend to "cover up" with the false self. The false self is made up of our pain stories and outdated myths and underlying assumptions, agreements, and beliefs that are linked to our past. 

- An undisciplined mind, an inability to stay focused, makes you vulnerable to internal and external distractions. These distractions can ultimately lead you away from your creative and spiritual intentions. 

- Everyone knows their calling - it boils down to listening to the call and following it, rather than getting lost in all the distractions.

- Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Your beliefs become your thoughts,

your thoughts become your words,

your words become your actions,

your actions become your habits,

your habits become your values,

your values become your destiny.

- Mahatma Gandhi

- In Buddhist practices, we hold ourselves accountable for how we respond to our circumstances.

I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother 

to endow it with the most useful gift, 

that gift would be curiosity.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

- To see the new story that may be offering itself up to you (or that is calling to you), you have to release old stories about how things are supposed to be or look. 

There is no passion to be found playing small - 

in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

- Nelson Mandela

- We settle for the comfort in the routine, for what feels familiar, for what we know. Sometimes we settle for what someone else wants for us. Every time we want to create something new, leave behind some old way of being, or challenge ourselves to try something different - resistance arises and we find ourselves on this slippery slope of settling. 

- If you are not moving toward your dream, you are settling. So if you claim that nothing out of the ordinary calls to you - you are probably settling. 

- Most of us have settled. Maybe not entirely, but in part we have given our time and resources to something or someone that is less than what we want or, more importantly, what we are capable of. We lie to ourselves and say that "this is enough" or "I need to give this more time." 

- We settle for less in ourselves and then in others and miss the fulfillment of a vision.

- Dare to give ourselves more time to be creative or dare ourselves to do something larger like change vocations. 

What you are comes to you.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

- The happiest among us are those of us who take risks and are loyal to our spiritual (ethical) and creative commitments no matter the results.

 Depression is based on our interpretations of our life situations, our circumstances, 

our self-conceptions. We get depressed for not being the person we want to be. 

We get depressed when we think we have not been able to 

achieve the things that we want to achieve in life. 

- Traleg Kyabgon

- Depression is not about you. It affects everyone around you, including your larger community. Self-absorption is not a cure and will result in an even greater sense of isolation.

- Life is constantly in motion and changing, and when we hold on to an old story that is no longer even possible, depression can take root.

- A person who is depressed and angry....they are leaving a large part of their life unlived. Their antidote is simple (but not easy): they need to activate their creative life - take that class, bring out the guitar, write that book, or hold more conversations and take more trips. They need to commit to the active creative life and do so in the open. 

- Antidotes to depression: spend time outside in a natural environment. Watch Off the Map.

- A troublemaker can be a person, situation, or event that presents us with some difficulty. When a troublemaker shows up in your life, you have the opportunity to let it pull you away from your creative intentions or use it in your creative and spiritual pursuits. 

- Let go of the opinions of others. Typically the threats made by a bully include ruining others' opinions of you, whether explicitly or implicitly. So when you can let go of others' opinions as being meaningful to you, a better fate awaits you. 

Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. 

What a man thinks of himself, that is what determines, or rather, indicates his fate. 

- Henry David Thoreau

- The illusion is that "when I get this I will be happy." The focusing illusion includes putting our happiness on outward objects and circumstances and typically looks into the future. There is a lack of creativity involved because we are putting our energy in an illusionary state of when.  This illusion forgoes living life from your side because the focus of your happiness is on something outside of yourself.

Most people believe that they would be happier if they were richer, 

but survey evidence on the subject of well-being is largely inconsistent with that belief. 

- Daniel Kahneman

- If we work hard all day and then give nothing to our spiritual or creative life, or to our relationships for that matter, everyone suffers. 

- Clutter is often a manifestation of this agreement to put our creative life on hold. As the piles of paper, waste, and stuff accumulate, it gives us more and more things we have to get to before we can get to our creative lives. Then, the door closes and it is too late.

Good artists copy; great artists steal.

- Pablo Picasso

- You can't live the creative life without borrowing from the dead, or from the living. You must steal shamelessly from those who came before you and those around you now. Then you must make it your own. In making the materials you own you get what you want - a personal and direct experience that is both creative and spiritual.

- A large part of my life's work is to leave behind a truly rich compost pile for those who will live off my life. Whatever we leave behind makes up our compost. Our books, our art, our ideas, our children, our teachings, our attitude, our beliefs, our legacies all go into our life's compost. 

- Stealing is different from just copying or plagiarizing others. When you copy, you haven't put yourself into it.

- If we only duplicate what inspires us, nothing truly creative will come of it. Steal what inspires you, then do something inspirational with this association. Make it your own somehow. 

The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. 

- Albert Einstein 

- Read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. 

- Spiritual activism is the creative act of showing up in intimate and open conversations with everything around you.

- Treating every conversation and interaction as if it were our last invites us to invest more in what we say, and in what we don't say, to each other. 

- Have some kind of daily practice (journaling, walking) that reinforces your creative and spiritual life. Don't waste this precious lifetime by putting things off or ignoring the daily call to be active in your spiritual and creative life. Remember, none of us know the day or hour of our death. So let's not be frivolous with the remarkable opportunity of this day. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Artist/Picture Study - Yayoi Kasama

Yayoi Kusama was born on March 22, 1929, and is a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation. She also does performance, painting, fashion, fiction, poetry, video art, and other arts. 

According to Wikipedia, Yayoi's work "is based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan."

She was raised in Matsumoto and then trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts in a traditional Japanese painting style called nihonga. However, she was inspired by American Abstract impressionism. 

In 1958, Wikipedia states, "Yayoi moved to New York City and was a part of the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, especially in the pop-art movement. Embracing the rise of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, she came to public attention when she organized a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly colored polka dots. Since the 1970s, Yayoi has created art, most notably installations in museums around the world. 

She has been open about her mental health, and says that art allows her a way to express her mental problems. She reported in the interview she did with Infinity Net "I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieved my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live."

Below are several pieces or installations that Yayoi has done and what Olivia remembered about them after studying them for a while.

Olivia remembered: 
- In the room, there is a dining room/kitchen presented. Everything is covered in polka dots. There are polka dots on top of polka dots. 
- There are definitely areas in the room where the polka dots are closer to one another and on top of one another.
- There is a dining room table with six chairs. There are plates, cups, a wine glass, and a pitcher of some a tea kettle. They were all covered in polka dots.
- On the wall to the right, there is a cabinet - it's open on top, but there are doors on the bottom. Following along that, it looks like there is a counter or a kitchen sink. I couldn't tell if there was a picture or a window above the sink.
- There also appears to be a plant in the back of the picture. 
- The walls are definitely more heavily polka-dotted than the floor. 
- The polka dots were in colors of red, orange, yellow, pink, blue, and green.


Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there are a ton of yellow pumpkins with black dots all over them. 
- The dots are all neatly in order. Starting in the center section of a pumpkin, they get smaller. 
- They also seem to move the natural lines of the pumpkins. 
- Even the stems are painted black with gold dots matching the sides of the pumpkins in reverse. 
- It looks like there are mirrors on the sides of the walls and ceiling to make the room bigger than what it is actually.
- The floor looks like it is somewhat reflective as well...just like it has been polished. 
- The pumpkins seem to glow from the inside - like they are lamps.
- The colors look yellow and black - like a bee. 


Pumpkin (M), 2013, Victoria Miro, London

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there is one big lone pumpkin. It appears to be made out of metal and I can't tell if it black first and then painted gold in some areas.
- The polka dots seem to be cut out of the yellow/bronze/gold metal that is laying on top of the pumpkin.
- The stem is in the reverse of the body where it's gold dots with a black surface.
- The ridges on the pumpkin really stand out. 
- In the center, the dots are bigger and as they move out they get smaller.
- There are willow trees in the background. It is definitely outside. 
- It kind of looks like a big piece of Swiss cheese. It kind of reminds me of Swiss cheese.


Flowers that speak all about my heart given to the sky, 2018, 
Victoria Miro, London, 2018, photo: Thierry-Bal
Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there are three big flowers. Each flower is a slightly different color. The one on the left has yellow petals on the inside with black polka dots with pink on the outside of the petals. The inside color with a different outside color repeats for the other two flowers. 
- The inside is painted with a bright color - like red, yellow, or green. Those three colors make the seeds on the inside of the flower. It gives it an interesting look.
- They are in the shape of little rectangles. It kind of reminds me of a spider web. 
- The leaves of the flowers also have polka dots on them. 
- They look like they are on some wooden deck or platform. 
- The second flower to the right is red and white. The other one is pink and blue. 
- Some of the leaves have yellow or blue polka dots. 
- Some of the undersides of the leaves are lighter green with polka dots. 
- The flowers look like they could swallow you up and the petals would close in on you. 


Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there is a vase and four flowers in it. One on the left is hanging down and is open. It is pointing to the table. The other three are pointing up and are open. 
- The whole picture reminds me of a mosaic and those dot mandalas.
- The whole picture is black and white too. 
- The surface of the table is white with black dots that seem to be going in a wave motion. 
- The vase has two handles on the side. 
- On the center of the vase has bigger random circle. As you go out, they are smaller and they are squished in between the bigger dots - or tucked in - giving it a 3D look.
- Some of the flowers reminded me of dandelions - especially the white ones. 
- The handles look like they are made out of rope looking like how the dots are formed on it. 
- The background is a bunch of little pieces that look like a mosaic. 
- The opening of the vase looks like a clamshell with curves in them. It reminds me of those bigger clam shells that - I think I saw something where they are really big and could swallow a person. Not like they could actually do that. 
- Some of the leaves look like them are snapped onto the stems - not like they are growing out from them. 
- The leaves kind of reminded me of dandelion leaves because of how jagged they are and how many points they have on them.


Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms
Tate Modern in London

Olivia remembered: 
- In the room, there are a bunch of lights. There also looks like there are mirrors in the room to reflect the light and make it look bigger.
- There's also a walkway in the center of the room - a path - and there is a big blob in the center of the photo. That could have been the camera taking the picture. 
- The lights were purples and yellow - contrasting colors. They looked like they were hanging from the ceiling.
- Definitely looks like you are in space. Each of the lights is a galaxy.
- Definitely looks like there are pillars in the room to support the ceiling and the room. 
- It's an empty-ish room with mirrors and lights.
- I think it would be cool. It reminds me of a mirror maze. It would be disorienting. You wouldn't know what is a wall and may walk into that. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Poet/Poetry Study - Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar, an American poet, novelist, and short story writer in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, was born on June 27, 1872 in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the American Civil War.

According to Wikipedia, "Dunbar began writing stories and verse when he was a child. He published his first poems at the age of 16 in a Dayton newspaper, and served as president of his high school's literary society. 

"Dunbar's popularity increased rapidly after his work was praised by William Dean Howells, a leading editor associated with Harper's Weekly. Dunbar became one of the first African-American writers to establish an international reputation. In addition to his poems, short stories, and novels, he also wrote the lyrics for the musical comedy In Dahomey (1903), the first all-African-American musical produced on Broadway in New York. The musical later toured in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Dunbar suffered from tuberculosis, which in the early-1900s had no cure. He died in Dayton, Ohio, on February 9, 1906, at the age of 33. Wikipedia states that "Much of Dunbar's more popular work in his lifetime was written in the 'Negro dialect' associated with the antebellum South, though he also used the Midwestern regional dialect of James Whitcomb Riley. Dunbar also wrote in conventional English in other poetry and novels."


The Debt

This is the debt I pay
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.

Pay it I will to the end —
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release —
Gives me the clasp of peace.

Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best —
God! but the interest!

Olivia thought:
- It sounded like it started out like he was taking out a debt to pay for something like going on the bus or trolly.
- The second section talks about death and paying it back when you are dead...or it can't bother you once you are dead. 
- The debt was not important. 
- He thought it was small, but it wasn't. 
- You have the interest on the debt. 
- [After reading a short essay about how the debt this poem may not relate to money, Olivia said:] I like how the author of the essay said that debt may not be focused on a monetary debt, but as a like an action or word that has been said. 
- It makes more sense that way. Certain parts of it...other parts sound money or finance-focused. 
- The stuff in the grave - it can't follow you. It's done. Once you are done, that's it. 
- I liked this poem.


The Old Front Gate

W'en daih's chillun in de house,
Dey keep on a-gittin' tall;
But de folks don' seem to see
Dat dey's growin' up at all,
'Twell dey fin' out some fine day
Dat de gals has 'menced to grow,
W'en dey notice as dey pass
Dat de front gate's saggin' low.

W'en de hinges creak an' cry,
An' de bahs go slantin' down,
You kin reckon dat hit's time
Fu' to cas' yo' eye erroun',
'Cause daih ain't no 'sputin' dis,
Hit's de trues' sign to show
Dat daih's cou'tin goin' on
W'en de ol' front gate sags low.

Oh, you grumble an' complain,
An' you prop dat gate up right;
But you notice right nex' day
Dat hit's in de same ol' plight.
So you fin' dat hit's a rule,
An' daih ain' no use to blow,
W'en de gals is growin' up,
Dat de front gate will sag low.

Den you t'ink o' yo' young days,
W'en you cou'ted Sally Jane,
An' you so't o' feel ashamed
Fu' to grumble an' complain,
'Cause yo' ricerlection says,
An' you know hits wo'ds is so,
Dat huh pappy had a time
Wid his front gate saggin' low.

So you jes' looks on an' smiles
At 'em leanin' on de gate,
Tryin' to t'ink whut he kin say
Fu' to keep him daih so late,
But you lets dat gate erlone,
Fu' yo' 'sperunce goes to show,
'Twell de gals is ma'ied off,
It gwine keep on saggin' low.

Olivia thought:
- The old front gate is clearly sagging and needs repairs. 
- I heard the word "pappy" which refers to the dad.
- There are sisters are of the age to get married and should be married by now. 
- This poem was confusing and long. The slang and we're guessing what these words mean make this poem definitely on the difficult side.
- Some of the words you can figure out. 
- I think he definitely captures how some African Americans would have talked. 
- I think it would have been a nice poem if I could understand it a little better. 


We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies
 It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
 This debt we pay to human guile;
 With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
 And mouth with myriad subtleties.

 Why should the world be overwise,
  In counting all our tears and sighs?
  Nay, let them only see us, while
  We wear the mask.

   We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
    We wear the mask!

Olivia thought:
- So it is about wearing a mask when you are out in public. At the beginning it sounds like it is an actual, physical mask. Towards the end, it sounds more like a figurative one. People don't know that you are wearing. 
- One would wear the mask to hide - to hide pain and misery. 
- They want to keep the mask on because there's no reason for others to know what's going on in your life. 
- I liked it. I think the death one is better. I think people can associate themselves with one of the characters who is behind the mask.



An angel, robed in spotless white,
Bent down and kissed the sleeping Night.
Night woke to blush; the sprite was gone.
Men saw the blush and called it Dawn.

Olivia thought:
- Talking about the sunrise and how it pink. 
- People thought the angel was the sun or the bringer of the dawn; and then he would disappear and not leave a trace.
- It's the transition from night to day. 
- I like this one. It is cute. 
- This is a new perspective on looking at this transition from night to day.


Invitation to Love

Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it to rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd’ning cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome.

Olivia thought:
- This person is inviting love into their life because - I guess - they haven't felt it. They want to let love knows that it is welcome in their life. 
- I like the beginning part with the sky - come when the nights are bright with that - that first section.
- Talks about the seasons, grief, how love is soft, and bringing it home. 
- The part with the sky and the seasons, I could picture that in my mind. 
- I liked Dawn better than this one.


Ships that Pass in the Night

Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
I look far out into the pregnant night,
Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
And catch the gleaming of a random light,
That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul's deep hurt are glassing;
For I would hail and check that ship of ships.
I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,
My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,
And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,
O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!
Is there no hope for me? Is there no way
That I may sight and check that speeding bark
Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?

Olivia thought:
- First thought was the song "Ships in the Night." 
- This gives me a melancholy feeling. Everything seems alright, but there's an air of urgency and concern with the solemn booming gun. It sounds like there may be other ships fighting. 
- "Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing" - I can imagine the dark clouds coming together. 


Monday, March 14, 2022

Book Notes - Witness

During the past week, I read the book Witness - Lessons from Eli Wiesel's Classroom. The book was written by Ariel Berger. This book had a lot of interesting stories and quotes, but I was not as impressed with it as I had hoped. There were too many stories by the author about his own life which I found distracting from why I wanted to read the book in the first place: to hear Eli's view on life and his experience as a Holocaust survivor.

Eli Wiesel is best known for his Holocaust testimony and for the universal lessons he has from his experience of this tragedy. In May 1944, Eli was deported with his family to Auschwitz. His mother and younger sister were murdered upon arrival, Eli and his father endured forced labor and then forced to march to Buchenwald where his father died. American soldiers liberated the camp on April 29, 1945. Eli was 16.

When asked how he kept going after the Holocaust and how he didn't give up, Eli said that it was due to learning. "Before the war, I was studying a page of Talmud and my studies were interrupted. After the war, when I wrote to the orphanage in France, my first request was for this same volume so that I could continue my studies from the same page, the same line, the same spot where I had left off. Learning saved me." 

He encouraged everyone to tell their stories because if even one person learns from it - how to be more human - you have made your memories into a blessing. We must turn our suffering into a bridge so that others might suffer less.

History is a narrow bridge. We have different memories of the trauma in our memories. We try to forget, and, in truth, some things we must forget a little bit simply in order to function. And yet, if we truly allow ourselves to forget, history may well return to us.

Never allow anyone to be humiliated in your presence.

Moral education tells people what they need to hear, even when it is painful. When moral education works, students investigate and embrace new ways of thinking. They learn new habits of questioning and ultimately find a deeper sense of common humanity. Students who experience this become sensitized to suffering. They read the news differently. They are no longer able to pass a homeless person on the street without offering at least a smile. You speak up when they overhear a bigoted word or see a bully, Inaction is no longer an option.

If you look away from suffering, you become complicit, a bystander. Silence never helps the victims, only the victimizers.

Faust's dilemma is that without knowledge we are nothing but with knowledge,we are dangerous. It depends what you do with that knowledge - gratify the darkest impulses or help your fellow man.

Hatred is a kind of cancer, and unlike anger, it serves no purpose.

Once you bring life into the world, you must protect it by trying to make the world better. Our children show us the connection between ethics and beauty - that it is beautiful to make the world more human.

Small moments make a big difference.

Modest acts of kindness are more significant than we recognize. It does not have to be newsworthy. You just need to look out for the outstretched hand. You just need to touch one person every day with compassion.

The question is: How real are other people to you? Do you feel their suffering? Does it actually keep you up at night? We need to find a balance between sleep and paralysis. Start with one person. A person is not an abstraction. Don't just write a check. Help them with something. Help them somehow with your own effort. Your own energy. Buy them food and bring it to them. Help them find shelter. Speak to them. Take the time to really speak and listen.

You must turn hate into something creative, something positive. If you are a teacher, you turn it into good teaching. If you write, turn it into good writing. Express what you feel and not the hate.

In Auschwitz, a woman named Roza Robota smuggle grains of dynamite under her fingernails for weeks in order to collect enough to bomb the crematorium. She and others were responsible for the revolt in October 1944. She and three other women were hanged and executed. They shouted a biblical phrase: Be strong and of good courage.

In 1945, Jews came out of ghettos and forests. The partitions had guns. They could have set the world on fire. It didn't happen. With very few exceptions, they did not seek revenge. They sought victory through life. Survivors as a group have advocated hope, not despair. Generous generosity, not bitterness. Gratitude, not violence. They chose to help families to rebuild decimated communities, to become philanthropists and doctors to find a way to help others. That is the revenge of the survivors: new life, new families, new communities helping others making the world better.

When two people come together to listen, to learn from each other, there is hope. This is where humanity begins with peace. Begin where dignity begins - in a small gesture of respect in listening. Hope is a gift we give to one another.

It means learning, thinking higher, and feeling deeper, always challenging yourself to dive into the great texts, stories, and ideas in search of wisdom.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Poet/Poetry Study - Langston Hughes

James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. 


One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that "the Negro was in vogue", which was later paraphrased as "when Harlem was in vogue." 

Growing up in a series of Midwestern towns, Hughes became a prolific writer at an early age. He moved to New York City as a young man, where he made his career. He graduated from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, and soon began studies at Columbia University in New York City. Although he dropped out, he gained notice from New York publishers, first in The Crisis magazine, and then from book publishers and became known in the creative community in Harlem. 

He eventually graduated from Lincoln University. In addition to poetry, Hughes wrote plays, and short stories. He also published several non-fiction works. From 1942 to 1962, as the civil rights movement was gaining traction, he wrote an in-depth weekly column in a leading black newspaper, The Chicago Defender.



Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Olivia's thoughts: 
- It's saying that without dreams that life is sad and empty. Dreams are what makes you want to do things.
- It definitely makes me think of a bird with a broken wing. The bird would feel sad and hurt. Vulnerable. 
- A barren field could be an empty field in the middle of winter...kind of like what we see now. Looking at the field, it feels cold, 
- When there is corn, it is full of life and potential. 
- If the bird has no one there to help it, it will most likely die. If I don't have someone to help me with my dream, it most likely would die too.
- I like this poem.


Still Here

I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind done scattered.
   Snow has friz me,
   Sun has baked me,

Looks like between 'em they done
   Tried to make me

Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'--
   But I don't care!
   I'm still here!

Olivia's thoughts: 
- I feel like it is someone who has been depressed or bullied to the point of feeling depressed.
- The whole message is that despite all of that, they are still there or here. They are resilient. 
- It did feel like a poem about racism. 
- The people who are being racist to him, they are trying to stop him from laughing, loving, and living. They don't want him in that community. But, he's not going to listen to them...he's going to keep going.
- He is head-strong, stubborn, and courageous. 


Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor-
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now-
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

Olivia's thoughts: 
- Definitely talking about the hardships that she has faced in her life. She's telling him that this is part of life and you have to push through it, and there will be spots where things go well. 
- Telling him no matter what - keep going....keep pushing forward. 
- She doesn't stop fighting - I didn't stop fighting or am not going to stop fighting - so neither should you. 



What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Olivia's thoughts: 
- A dream that you have to postpone feels like weight - it's always going to be there in the back of your mind and you are not going to forget it. 
- Depending on how big the dream is, it could be like any one of those situations.
- A dream that is deferred would's not going to let you forget it's there. 
- All of the analogies seem to be right, except the sugary one. That reminded me of making maple sugar candies. 


I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

Olivia's thoughts: 
- Definitely again talking about race and how the blacks weren't allowed to eat with white people. They were sent away. 
- It talks about one day they won't do it...they will all be able to sit together. 
- The mood is sad...a little darker sad...but more sad, I think. 
- He's dreaming about the day that his people and the other people can sit together as one and respect one another. 
- I like the shorter poems that he does. 


The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers: 

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Olivia's thoughts: 
- Again, this is about race. Kind of reminds me of how the Underground Railroad and how they would cross rivers to stop the scent so the dogs wouldn't be able to track them anymore. 
- Talks like he is still in Africa, and then you hear about the part with Abraham Lincoln and you know that he is in the United States.