Sunday, November 25, 2018

Analysis of "By Force" by Carl Phillips

Poem found here:  "By Force"
More about the Poet:  Carl Phillips


The progression of voyeurism, "Look -- they're turning: how gracefully each / moves."  The movements up close bringing a sense of intimacy, "in the surprise of woundedness--and, / where arrow meets flesh," the allusion to St. Sebastian here brings this encounter on a historical resonance, "the blood corsaging" the image is pretty and sexual at the same time.

Then there's this list that creates this tempo of sexual sounds, "Revelation, jackhammers, love, four hooves / in the dirt."  This continuous pounding sound -- physically and auditory leads to a silence, "How speechless, now"  There's an abruptness in the language -- is this post coitus -- that breath, then the regret.

Or rather the clarity one gets after an orgasm, when the mind is not driven by the body and the sound of the body.  Then the language of the poem becomes more like an equation, "As if always/ light must wed the dark, eventually, and the dark / mean silence."  There's a sense of a resignation of this cycle. can continue until the speaker becomes empowered, "I disagree."

"Touch not the crown-- Don't touch me--"  The me and the crown comes off as a parallel image.  A sense of importance and worth.  This is why the speaker can say, "don't touch me."  By force, what type? Consent? An uncontrollable urge?  It's both.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Analysis of "The Want of Peace" by Wendell Berry


Poem found here: Reading "The Want of Peace"
More about the Poet:  Wendell Berry


"All goes back to the earth," is such a strong statement of resignation.  Welp, we're all dust in the wind, so what?  The "so what" is the point of the poem.  Written in first person, the speaker thoughts and experiences relate to what he/she things of "all goes back to earth" or what to do until that happens.

"and so I do not desire / pride of excess or power"  pretty basic set up lines.  Also, the lines come off as grandeur but broad.  Regardless, If I don't wan't "x", usually I want "y."  y being:

but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman's silence
receiving the river's grace,
the gardener's musing on rows
The statement of "men who have had little" makes this poem turn towards class.  Can't rich people be fishermen and gardeners?   Yes.  But those whose lives depend on the silence, the river's grace, the ability to muse on rows to get through the day.

This sets up the next line, "I lack the peace of simple things."  Note that the picturesque scenes above represent "simple things" due to the placement of the line if contentments and simple things mean the same thing.  But also note that this doesn't mean the speaker is "rich" in only the materialistic sense.

I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men

The poem expands outward where the "I" becomes "we".  The speaker and everyone is to blame for selling the world to buy fire in the backdrop of burning men.  Also note the images expand outwards like the speaker.  In the blur of description, this is the "reality" that the speaker does.

The reality makes the speaker introspective:

and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots

The introspection is simple.  People like me do bad things, I want to go back the foundational simple things. I get it.

But broad brushstrokes that define the speaker and predicament with the reaction equally broad and hyperbolized.  There's this feeling of lack of definition that drew me to this poem.  Is the big sense of peace just as wrong as selling the world to buy fire because the lack of direction and description?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Analysis of "Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 AM" by Ross Gay

Poem found here: "Pulled Over in Short Hills, NJ, 8:00 AM" 
More about the Poet:  Ross Gay



A situation trigger.  I'll skip ahead a bit with the lines halfway down the poem, "[...] as I answer the questions / 3, 4, 5, times, my jaw tight as a vice,"  So in this narrative poem, the speaker appears to be pulled over and is being questioned.  The approach the poem takes is from the core of a person outward -- inside the feeling of a person, literally and figuratively, to something more.

The speaker mentions this rage that grows and spend a good eight lines using exact body part language on how this rage travels:

hot as an army of red ants and forces
the mind to quiet the body, the quakes
emerge, sometimes just the knees,
but, at worst, through the hips, chest, neck
until, like a virus, slipping inside the lungs
and pulse every ounce of strength tapped
to squeeze words from my taut lips,

For me, the lines speed by just like how quickly an emotion erupts.  I think it is two things: 1) as a reader when that line about "the body, the quakes" sets in we're expecting a bumpy ride so when the list of body parts come out in rapid succession, we too are like the rage, the virus, and 2) the use of commas, even though should technically slow down a sentence, comes off as a list so "hips, chest, neck" -- there's a build up through the language and image.

But this build up transfers to the other, "his eyes scanning my car's insides, my eyes, / my license [...]".  The poem definitely slows down here.  There's a certain invasion of privacy with his (the cop) eyes scanning my eyes and insides of his car.  There's this weird intimate language that continues.

"[...]my jaw tight as a vice, / his hand massaging the gun butt, I / imagine things I don't want to"  This is very specific language -- jaw tight as a vice, hand massaging the gun butt.  I don't know if it's indecent in a negative or positive way.

On one hand, fetish.  On the other hand, kind of creepy and rapey vibe through the language.

In any case, the end of the poem refers back to the shivers

and inside beg this to end
before the shiver catches my
hands, and he sees,
and something happens.

What happens?  Rage from being pulled over and questioned again and again -- maybe not the first time pulled over, maybe impatient because of being pulled over.  Is this poem about race or does it matter? 

I don't think that matters in this poem.  Probably does though.

What matters is what the shivers mean -- this rage that the speaker has to hide.  But don't we all have to hide that rage?  Or rather how and when to show outrage?  I take the ambiguous ending of "something happens" as ironic.  Everything is happening in the speakers head.  The speaker is triggered.  But what action can the speaker really do, nothing (or  try to do nothing).  The "something happens happens" then the poem ends.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Analysis of "Again and Again" by Rainer Maria Rilke

Poem found here: "Again and Again"
More about the Poet:  Rainer Maria Rilke


"Again and again," the poem and the first phrase signals a repetition, but funnily enough there isn't a rhyme scheme in the poem -- maybe that'd be hitting things too hard on the nose since, as a reader, we already know the direction the poem is going, the how is what should be the draw.

"[...]however we know the landscape of love / and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names, [...]"  The enjambed line  brings a contrast, "landscape of love" and "the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names" If we can assume the churchyard with sorrowing names means a graveyard makes it appear different: love and death.  But is it?

After reading this poem a couple times, the idea of a graveyard is love, isn't it?  It's a place where loved ones can rest and loved ones can mourn.  Even when the speaker expands upon this landscape of love and depth to the point of hyperbole, "and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others fall", there is a sense of an Orphean descent that doesn't seem frightening (even though the adverb in the line states that).  The tone I get from the descent is tired.

[...] again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.
Isn't there comfort in something being done again and again, even if it is a negative thing.  Let's say the negative thing not stated here is that going back to a graveyard brings back memories like "the two of us walk out together", isn't there comfort that this happens, "again and again."  It's something that can be counted upon.   I think the image of the flowers in the lines outweigh the image of face to face with the sky.   The flowers lessens the "frightening" aspect of this repetition.  Yes, the image could be red ironically, but I'm choosing not to in this instance.  What's my evidence, the silence. 

The last three lines are imagistic and focuses with the speaker and the other doing the same action.  If there was a word or two in there that made the poem lean towards that direction, something that has a sense of commentary to the situation, then I can believe that this poem had a hidden irony in it.

But not for me,  when they face the sky, they enjoy this moment with a sense of melancholy and fear, but never wanting to break this cycle.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Analysis of "Book 7, Epigram 42" by Thomas Bastard

Poem found here: "Book 7, Epigram 42"
More about the Poet:  Thomas Bastard



"Love the vice" is the last note I wrote for this poem.  When I reread this poem again, I thought to myself that this poet is really putting vice on a godly pedestal, "Our vice runs beyond all the old men saw."  The use of "old men" in the opening line brings a sense of agelessness as well as human into the poem -- something beyond a normal man (or woman).

"And far authentically above our laws, / And scorning virtues safe and golden mean,"  Once again, vice is beyond humans, whatever human constructs try to block it, and doesn't care about "virtues" that humans do. Vice is just omnipotent.

"Sits uncontrolled beyond the high extreme. / Circes, thy monsters painted out the hue,"  The allusion to Circes is an interesting thing in this poem because it appears Circes is the ultimate vice.  I had to read back the Circe lore from Wikipedia to figure out what this means.

I think in all parts of the Circe lore, there's the seven deadly sins: gluttony, and wrath (Odysseus men turned to pig and gorged upon), lust, sloth, and a pinch of greed (Circe of her magic and inviting Odysseus to sleep with her, Odysseus outsmarting the situation and staying on the island for a year), pride and envy, hmmm, wasn't Odysseus on his Odyssey because of his pride and wasn't the Trojan War mostly about envy?

In any case, the build up to vice leads up to this allusion then the last two lines, "Our vice puts down all proverbs and all themes, / Our vice excels all fables and all dreams."  The usage of the pronoun "our" is interesting.  I think the "our" represents the big humanity part, this fits with the theme of the poem, -- that for humans, even trying to make stories about vice doesn't define the vice.

Meaning a person can't fight vice.  Vice will happen.  Learn your vices.  Love your vices.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Analysis of "Crumbling is not an instant's Act (1010)" by Emily Dickinson

More about the Poet:  Emily Dickinson



Such a strong first line that makes a reader wonder, "Crumbling is not an instant's Act" where the speaker sets up a curiosity -- what is the physical visual case between crumbling/not crumbling.  The next three lines brings a curt matter of fact attitude:

A fundamental pause
Dilapidation's processes
Are organized Decays --

The process of decay is an orderly manner -- a pause, dilapidation happens, good and organized.  Then the speaker brings this sort of objective view goes back to the self, "'Tis first a Cobweb on the soul."  And as the image of this crumbling soul going down to the most basic electron:

A Cuticle of Dust
A Borer in the Axis
An Elemental Rust -- 
So the soul, this particle, is down to an "elemental" rust is gone.  Is it gone?  If not gone then what happens, "Ruin is formal -- Devil's work / Consecutive and slow --" a continuous decay to something smaller, something minuscule -- a reverse Sisyphean ordeal. 

The last two lines don't make sense to me, "Fail in an instant, no man did / Slipping -- is Crashe's law --"  I looked up "Crashe's law",  but this looks like this law refers to nothing I can see outside this poem.  The bigger question to me is "Fail is an instant, no man did."  I understand the enjambment focusing on no man fails in an instant -- but the direct verb drops down to the next line "Slipping" is a good visual, but doesn't make sense with the sentence.

Slipping down like sisyphus.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Analysis of "American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin" by Terrance Hayes

Poem found here: American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin
More about the Poet:  Terrance Hayes


I remember reading parts of this collection at my friend's house.  I haven't read much of him, but knew he was really good.  You don't get a National Book Award for nothing, right.  I've been hitting a rough patch with poetry as life cuts in: full-time job, bills, responsibilities.  It seems I just don't make the time.

And in a weird segway, this poem plays with grandeur things like Time, parallel worlds, and gods.  Also, unfortunately, I don't know anything about Dr. Who.  I should  though, shouldn't I?  Does this matter in the context of the poem when, in an instant, the speaker says, "In a parallel world where all Dr. Who's / Are black [...]" changes the race of the entire history of things but are still recognizable or a "parallel world."

Note, not opposite.  Parallel means just slight changes to the norm -- deviance is more of an opposite reaction.  Time is still powerful in our time, but there's more of an emphasis which changes the culture of this parallel world.

Is it why the following three sentences don't make sense to me?

Where all the doctors who are black see cops
Box black boys in cop cars & caskets, I'm
The doctor who blacks out whenever he sees
A police box [...]

I think it's clever word play with hard stopped sounds as though in an angry flow.  But what does it mean for the doctors to see the cops box black boys in cop cars and casket?  Especially when the next line  have the doctors pass out when to see a police box.  I don't think it matters that I get it, is that I feel the lines -- the flow off anger and harsh words while the actions seem more impotent -- in a parallel world.

Question

Who is the speaker talking to now, the parallel self?

Question: if , in a parallel world where every Dr.
Who was black, you were the complex Time Lord,
When & where would you explore?

Dr. Who and the other being Time lord who is set up to be the most powerful force.  Is, answer, parallel to the self but both powerless in a physical sense when, "a knee or shoe stalls against his neck."  Even in a parallel world the image of the self seems more relevant than the feeling, reaction, outcries.