Sunday, April 26, 2020

Analysis of "44306" by Meg Johnson

Poem found here: 44306 by Meg Johnson



The opening line reminds me of the opening line from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."  "Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky".  Compared to, "Let's get this ménage a trois started."  Okay so maybe the sentiment is different, but the connecting as humans, a couple versus a collection of three, "You, me, and this three / legged dog of a city" is there.  I guess this'll be from my perspective, but I feel the lines are connected and now I'm relating the mood of Prufrock, observation and desolation, to this poem.

"The most majestic / creature here is a blimp in the sky,"  and from Prufrock, "When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table;".  The metaphor in Prufrock parallels this poem's pretty straight forward description.  I don't know what this means exactly.  This could be a breaking point in the poem that critiques Prufrock, or this could could be just an homage to the poem, or, as usual, I can reading too much into this.  And what keeps me guessing, in a good way, keeps me reading.

"Middle class looking houses are / undercover brothels."  How one thing appears safe is really a symbol of destitution, depending on how you see brothels.  The poem definitely turns the images into a more seedy atmosphere which is added on by the following lines, "Drive through / convenience stores faced vandalized / elementary schools.  This isn't a cohesive sentence.  That kind of majesty and comparative lines in the beginning of the stanza becomes this language -- a bit more real and aggressive.  It feels like the speaker is trying to balance "sexual blase" along with "sleaze" topic wise, depending on how you see menege a trois.  When is it porn or when is it parody?

Then we get a break.  And the poem shifts, "Let's pretend gas stations are romantic.", towards sentiment -- to attach a feeling to the action, to be close under such circumstances, "My house by the highway could / be a lovers' paradise if we get naked fast / enough."  Why mention the speed of things?  If we look at this as losing time, then the last vestige of sanity is the speaker's house close to corruption -- whatever way you think the poem is going: definitely a good poem to look in a marxist way.

"When our body outshines / my past lovers and this city, I / won't know if I'm happy or sad."  The last three lines puts the other as something to put on a pedestal -- a lover, someone to fulfill a connection.  Then with the line compares this ideal against, "past lovers and this city," which is once again a connection within a connection (menege a trois, you, me and this three legged dog of a city.) bring meaning, something more.  Is it a happy moment to now have it?  Is it a sad moment that the speaker waited this long to have it?  Maybe that's where the emotion lay in uncertainty of placing significance in the signified.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Analysis of "We Never Know" by Yusef Komunyakaa

Poem found here: "We Never Know" by Yusef Komunyakaa



War poems are hard to do.  I had a professor once ask a class, "where is all the famous war poems from Vietnam, or the Iraq war?"  And I just didn't know.  In this poem, "We Never Know," the setting is on the battlefield, but the emotions come out to the forefront.

"He danced with tall grasses / for a moment, like he was swaying / with a women"  The simile brings together two strange situations together -- a man dancing in the grass and swaying as though dancing.  This feels like the speaker trying to project an emotion to a mundane situation until we get a little more context "Our gun barrels / glowed white-hot."  This is an interesting way of stating guns were shot.

At first, I thought it was the collective "our" like everyone was on the same side.  And this idea plays on later in this poem, but the immediate has dire consequences, "When I got to him / a blue halo /of flies had already claimed him."  I wonder if they were on the same side or on opposite sides.  There isn't really big clues that state either side, and it does matter in some ways.  However, the imagery in this line plays with visceral decomposition and religious allusion with "a blue halo / of flies."  The image foreshadows an external and internal conflict.

"I pulled the crumbled photograph / from his fingers. / There's no other way / to say this: I fell in love."  And at this point I realize that the speaker didn't recognize the dead person as a person.  Not saying that the other was a target or meaningless; the other was just a image or just a metaphor in this poem -- something surreal but not human.  When the speaker is able to collect the crumbled photograph, does it matter what the photograph was?  Not as much.  The photograph is a human keepsake. 

"The morning cleared again, / except for a distant mortar / & somewhere choppers taking off."  I wonder about the use of ampersand in the poem.  I'm not sure nor do I want to speculate, but these images does refer to war.  The day before and the next day it's war with mortars and choppers which makes me assume this is a Vietnam poem.

"I slid the wallet into his pocket / & turned him over, so he wouldn't be / kissing the ground."  I feel that the returning of the wallet is the return his humanity for both the speaker and the dead.  The speaker sees a dead human not someone of the dead.  Kissing the ground is an interesting image since there's much about love and intimacy on the periphery.  That would mean that the dead person is face up to be recognized. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Analysis of "A Poison Tree" by William Blake

Poem found here:  "A Poison Tree" by William Blake



This is an either/or poem which is very heavy on the second part.  The first part follows the idea of forgiveness, "I was angry with my friend: / I told my wrath, my wrath did end."  When dealing with emotions, for friends, it's best said and done with, one way or another.  Get it done quickly and move on in doing more friend stuff.

But, say you like revenge or have some enemies.  This is where the poem goes into a bit too much detail, starting here, "I was angry with my foe: / I told it not, my wrath did grow."  Why hold in such anger?  The reasons don't matter.  Just like The Cask of Amontillado, all that matters is that an injustice has happened.  Now what?

"And I watered it in fears. / Night and morning with my tears;"  A little bit sappy here, but feeding wrath with emotions to make it grow -- sorrow and fear the nutrients.  "And I sunned it with smiles, / And with soft deceitful wiles."  The anaphora of "and" adds to this sense of psychosis and tempo -- "and" this, "and" then.  Some sense of excitement.

"And it grew both day and night / Till it bore an apple bright."  Maybe this part is hearkening to the Snow White tale of the poisoned apple.  Or some fruit, like the biblical one, which has negative consequences once eaten.  In any case, the apple is the "edible" culmination of wrath and sorrow, "And my foe beheld it shine. / And he knew that it was mine."  The foe just sees the apple, the nice exterior that looks delicious -- but all those smiles and courtesies hide the actual feeling

"And into my garden stole / When the night had veiled the pole;"  Time passes and the foe goes to steal and eat the apple.  I'm not sure what "veiled the pole" means.  However the deed is done, "In the mourning glad I see / My foe outstretched beneath the tree."  Poison intent welled up and the foe doing another grievance causing his own death.  I wonder what that poison tree looks like.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Analysis of "Eurydice" by Carole Stone

Poem Found Here:  "Eurydice" by Carole Stone

This is a persona poem from the myth of Eurydice.  I think the couplet form and the terseness of the lines really play with this character trying to rationalize and cope with being away from her "love." "I thought I wanted to return to earth. / What for?"  The doubt written a matter-a-factly brings a sense of humor to the poem.  Humor as coping, at first. 

"My husband's harp playing / the trees sighing, animals moaning?"  Note, Her husband, Orpheus, mourns her death through song which affects the world around him into being just as sad as he is.  For these lines, I feel like it more of a mood -- negative and sad, than semantics and the rules.

But the strictness of rules comes into play, "Hell is being with or without a husband. / Transgression is accidental, / like the way Orpheus looked back."  Lot's of ideas running through these lines.  The first of these lines is a limbo in a sense -- death do you part or love you forever.  Does one stay loyal or move on?  With Orpheus he loved and moved on at the same time -- not by choice but by some doubt, some small accidental "transgression."

The failure is his, but for her, the emotion of being left behind is what she is dealing with and she's dealing with the idea of, "But in Hell, there is no need to repent."  There's no need to ask for forgiveness or be weighed down by failure.  What is is what is.  What she found from such tragedy is her own voice, her own song, "So now I can make a harp of myself, / sing with my body." 

Her voice, her ability to mourn and be mourned, to be an individual from hell rather than Orpheus' failure.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Analysis of "Stranger by Night" by Edward Hirsch

Poem found here: "Stranger by Night" by Edward Hirsch


There's a lot going on in the title.  When I researched this poem, I this is also the title of collection coming out in February 11, 2020.  I've learned to queue up posts, so I'm writing this post on January 13, 2020 and this should come out in March 29, 2020.

In any case, there's a lot going on in the title because the poem plays with the idea of "stranger" and "night" throughout.  However, note the form of the poem: short lines and a bit long, but could be read.  This idea plays itself out in the first couple of lines, "After I lost / my peripheral vision / I stated getting side swiped by pedestrians cutting / in front of me [...]"

The form of the poem plays with this lack of peripheral vision, something narrow can only be seen.  The form mimics this experience and too the reader, like the speaker, can only see what in from of them.  The "night" being played with is the lack of vision -- this sort of white space (or dark space) where nothing registers.

This feeling of losing is further compounded with the simile, "almost randomly like memories / I couldn't see coming / as I left the building / at twilight."  The forgetting of the memory triggers the memories of how the speaker now has to live his life: or stepped gingerly / off the curb / or even just crossed / the wet pavement / to the stairs descending / precipitously / into the subway station."

Careful.  This is how the speaker is dealing with the loss of sight and memory -- careful remembering of small moments.  Like big moments are too complicated to remember or to wonder what is gone.

Careful of being a bother, "and I apologized / to every one / of those stranger / jostling me / in a world that had grown / stranger by night."  This is where the play of the "stranger" comes in.  Of course the strangers that jostle him are there, but the speaker feels like a obstacle in their way of where they need to go, back to being strangers with their own lives.

But this world that the speaker experiences now feels like he's trying to navigate around like he's a stranger in his own life now.  The world is strange, the people are strange, the situation is strange, the speaker has become strange when circumstances change.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Analysis of "One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII" by Pablo Neruda

Poem found here: "One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII" by Pablo Neruda


Love poems.  When do they become too cute and too saccharine, or when does one past the test of time and mean something more.  Does this matter?  Love poems are definitely a mood poem to me.  Not the type to return to when I'm not into love poems -- like after a fight with a loved one or missing the loved one after a long departure, but even then it can go back and forth emotionally.

For this poem, the images and thoughts are what brings me back to this poem.  This is not simply a declaration of love in verse, but something more deeper, maybe soulful.

"I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz, / or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:"  No hyperbole or outward expanse of love.  At least that's what I take from these lines.  The images in the poem are in negation -- don't love, and I don't know if salt, topaz, or arrow of carnations have a bigger symbolic meaning.  It probably does, but that's not the the point.

The point comes with the next two lines, "I love you as one loves certain obscure things, / secretly, between the shadow and the soul."  Deep and intimate.  Between conceptual darkness and light.  So inward hyperbole.  "Secretly" in this context seems romantic to me, but, again taste level.  This could be read as creepy if taken literally and there's no buy in for the initial metaphor.

So how does someone love obscurely, " I love you as that plant that doesn't bloom but carries / the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,"  The potential.  Because from potential there is something bright and blooming, something the speaker enjoys and would be the one to see the growth.

"And thanks to your love that tight aroma that rose /from the earth lives dimly in my body."  A kept secret as significant and insignificant as a smell.  "tight aroma" is an interesting adjective/noun combination...what is a tight smell?

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where, / I love you directly without problem or pride: I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love you,"  swept up in the language.  The anaphora of "I love you" like a chant, and the lack of reason and more to emotional conclusion -- the love is the only way that feels right that I can.

"except in this form in which I am not nor are you, / so close that your hand upon my chest is mine, / so close that your eyes close with my dreams."  The line having the other chest as the speakers is a nice line that represents a oneness created through love.  The last line is an expected end for me, but why not.  In reality, in dreams, in shadow, and soul -- the speaker loves this way.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Analysis of "I Didn't Go to Church Today" by Ogden Nash

Poem found here:  "I Didn't Go to Church Today" by Ogden Nash



I think this poem is pretty self explanatory.  Please Lord, forgive me for not going to church since we die anyways.  We'll be together forever.  

However, this poem can be read further and deeper than just the surface level forgiveness.  But should I?  Why not.

"I didn't go to church today, / I trust the Lord to understand," and why wouldn't the Lord understand.  Isn't forgiveness of sin part of the doctrine.  The speaker must have a good reason though: family emergency, personal crisis, maybe perhaps even something as plausible as his car breaking down.  

But no, the next few lines isn't an excuse, it's what actually happened,  "The surf was swirling blue and white, / The children swirling on the sand."  Yes, if I want to go deep enough I can say this is a biblical allusion to Moses trials of parting the sea and he and his children wandering the desert for 40 year before finding their place.              

But no, let's not go there, why?  This poem's tone is jovial, not to be over thought because, "He knows, He knows how brief my stay, / How brief this spell of summer weather,"

Up front, this is all forgiven anyways, so why hide it.    Why look deeper at reasoning or purpose when it's all planned out.  

And the speaker is genuine with this emotion, "He knows when I am said and done / We'll have plenty of time together."    So what's one day?  What's that one line to say you're a believer or not and who is to judge.  Not man.  The lord knows.