What’s that noise? 

Our relationship with the concept of noise may be perceived as a complex one. It can be extremely hard to convey through text on a page. If you read something, each interpretation of the noise it makes will be different. Such can be seen in the poem on page 16:



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To me, this poem conveys loud, buzzing noise. You get the sense that a person is talking to you, and perhaps another is adding on. The text moves from one side to the other, almost like the set up a dialogue. It is spaced in a way that makes it organic, as if someone is legitimately saying this to us in real time. Like they are sharing this information with us. It not only shares what the speaker is feeling, but what they are hearing. This is the buzzing.

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         Image credit: Modern Farmer


But perhaps the most striking, the loudest part of the poem is the final three lines. They are spaced out like an echo, like a visualization of the voice bouncing off of structures before floating away into nothingness. It conveys to us the echo.


Can you hear the noise?

What do you hear?


Do You Have The Time?

“Do you have the time?”

In the world of Tram 83, young girls are struggling to support themselves and their families. They have been forced into sex work at an age where they should be playing and using their vivid imaginations to picture far off places. These girls are so common they receive the name “baby chicks”–these are children. There is an extreme loss of innocence present: instead of playing tag with their friends, these girls are chasing after men who will sleep with them.

“Baby chicks were girls aged 12 to 15 who  prostitute themselves in quarries” (57). At age twelve, I was still in fifth grade. I can remember running around the green hills of my school with my friends, pretending we were wild horses. We would sit beneath the curving slides and rub our heads on them in order to spike up our hair and share a laugh. My life revolved around Disney movies and virtual pets online.

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Photo Credit: Cards for Change

These children’s lives revolve around having sexual relations with men double, triple their ages. They have to live in fear that each day, they might be kidnapped and killed because of their line of work. They may not know where their next meal is coming from, or when the next time they make money will be. They may have starving families to look after, or may even be starving themselves. Baby chicks have been put in a situation where they must grow up quickly.

I wish I could say that I see my self in these young women, these girls’ who have endangered themselves for the sake of being fed. But I had a good childhood, and never had to think of matters regarding my safety until my teen years. This are the belly politics that we see all throughout Tram 83, this is one of many messages we are meant to see.

These women must fight for their survival, they must loose their innocence at such a young age to sex driven men, and this is normal for them–because this is their lives. This difference between them and I is perhaps one of the strongest messages in the story–it serves as a learning instance, a reflectory piece.

And even after reading this novel, I still hear in my head, like a cry for help: “Do you have the time?”

Utopia: Where is the Love?

Throughout Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia, we are introduced to two vastly different male narrators: the humble, impoverished Gaber and entitled and twisted Alaa. Through these views, the question of “Where does the quest for love come into play in these two character’s lives?” still remains.

In our introduction to Alaa, we are presented with a young, well-off male who has no shortage of sexual partners: “I put in the new contact lenses that turn your pupils white. It has an exciting effect on girls when you look at them with eyes gone white, like you’re the Grim Reaper. It really blows them away” (5). To Alaa, and perhaps most of the men in Utopia, women are viewed as sexualized objects, there to provide pleasure rather than intimacy. He is no stranger to meaningless hook ups, viewing sex as a past-time where he can release pent up lust: “Is she sexually exciting? Maybe. But I know longer know if a girl is a turn-on or not since they all look alike down to the last detail” (9). It is made abundantly clear that this young man is not driven to search for something beyond sexual intercourse; he is more interested in a selfish need than an opportunity to experience deep feelings for a woman. In these instances, we as a reader learn that he does not seek love or a solid relationship, but rather insignificant sexual encounters.

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Credit: Amanda Chapman,

On the opposite side of the spectrum, in meeting the impoverished Gaber, we see a man who “dream[s] of something beyond sex” (49). He is more intrigued by a connection that goes beyond sexual desire. In a moment of weakness and lust, Gaber is left alone with the vulnerable Germinal, and considers giving into his feelings. Suddenly, he imagines Germinal taking on the form of his sister becomes horrified at the thought. He asks himself if this is “the dominance of Utopia, or is it the power of sweeping conscience that makes you see every fragile, guileless girl as another Safiya?” (117). In these questions, we see that Gaber is aware of his lust, and yet pushes it away. He moves past the sexual urges, in an attempt to ground himself and perhaps even search for “something beyond”. The concept of a true, loving relationship can be found within Gaber and what he desires.

These two men are on the path of addressing sexual desires, and perhaps looking for love. Alaa will never seek anything beyond sexual fulfillment, whereas Gaber yearns for a connection surpassing a physical one. In these two men, we come to understand that there is a very different view of what exactly “love” can be in the world of Utopia–it is not found in sex, or hook ups, but a connection experienced between two individuals.


What Does Literature Mean To You?

A picture from a performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. (Credit: Birdport Arts Center)

Throughout history, humans have always communicated their ideas through storytelling. These prolific, inventive stories eventually transpired from mouth to paper, serving as tales that encouraged the growth of knowledge. As the human race developed, so did the literature of our people. Different cultures have their own stories, their own literature that they shared not only amongst themselves but with the world. Literature became a way that humans can communicate with one another—they can share ideas, personal anecdotes, and even lessons to be learned. It is form of knowledge.

And yet, what particularly is literature? Defined by Merriam-Webster as “literary culture” the concept on literature is one that can be greatly debated. In my experience with literature, it can be what you learn from a particular story, how it makes you feel emotionally, or even what spoke to you. Literature is a platform where authors can share ideas with eager audiences who thirst for knowledge. It can have a moving impact on the reader, helping them grow or develop their own opinions, or how they personally interacted with the text. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of literature is it cannot be defined in a scholarly sense, because it means something different to each individual.

For example, as an avid fan of the arts, I have long been exposed to an array of different forms of literature. As a participant within Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, I interacted with the text much differently then those who studied it in an academic sense. Even within the cast of the play, each verse, rhyme and piece of dialogue took on a different meaning. We each developed our own understanding of what the playwright had intended us to see. In my communication with the text, I was able to gain a greater understanding of the human condition and how this concept impacted my characters’ actions. However, the way my fellow cast mates interpreted the same text was an extremely varied–their own personal understanding.

This instance is a microcosm of the larger macrocosm of literature—each person has their own definition. No two people will have the same response to a piece of literature. And thus, I ask you:

What does literature mean to you?