Saturday, March 23, 2013

Analysis of "Apollo's Archaic Torso" by Leo Yankevich

Original poem reprinted online here: "Apollo's Archaic Torso" by Leo Yankevich
Originally read: January 5, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Leo Yankevich



Update 01/25/2014 -- Just realized the poem honors Rainer Maria Rilke's Poem, "Archaic Torso of Apollo"  I'm slow.  Does this change my reading of this poem.  Yes it does.  I'll get to this someday...

This Italian sonnet is awkward in an interesting sense.  There's a duality in the first part of the poem between the human body, a body sculpted, and a projected body.  I'm just going to quote the entire second stanza

    still radiant, though dimmed.  If not, his bare
    breast would not bind you in the silent turn
    of hips and thighs, a smile not flash and burn
    through groins, his genitals not ever glare.

Here in this stanza the way the images are described are surreal and my mind thinks of godly portrayals of nakedness.  And the speaker, even though not apparent in this stanza, describes the allure of a godly body "yet his torso gleams, / reflecting the candela," in where the surreal description also builds a sense of reverence.

However, there's words that pop up that bring me back to not of reverence but awkwardness -- as though to point out that the audience is a bunch of voyeurs in a gym changing room.  The detachment for me started with "pippins ripen" -- it's a weird sonic device where when I first read it, I read the two as rhyming -- and some trick as simple as that brings me out of the poem in a good way.

I have to write about "his genitals not ever glare."  Not only because it's such a strange description, but also in context to the poem -- the line references back to the torso which is so luminous that it overtakes the scene -- or rather should.  The description of the genitals takes away any "light" from the torso.

So in an Italian Sonnet, the first 8 lines should pose a sort of question that needs to be answered in the last 6 lines.  Maybe. "If not, this stone would seem deformed and small."  Yep there's a change in more of the attitude of the speaker towards the subject.  Apollo's junk.  Okay.  That's kind of harsh though, but it got me thinking of "godly" entities.

For example, if a godly body is too good or too exception or, really, against the norm, would another perspective see the overexageration as a deformity?

The end line is interesting because:

1) The reference to a "you" hasn't been done in the poem until the end -- and so the definition of "you" (audience, self, creation, there's more probably) shifts every time the poem is read.

2) The line is such a cliche, but cliches are built up out of context for example, if the last line was read in a self-help book, then yes, cliche; however, in this poem, the last line is ambiguous, so not only is the "you" ambiguous.  The tone of the last line (helpful, command, insight -- usual last line qualities) shifts.  So the poem "exposes" multiple levels of meaning over the most surreal and awkward description.


1 comment:

  1. I had to laugh at the last line. You defend as well as can be done but for me this imperative (a) comes out of nowhere or (b) should be appended to every poem ever written. I was steaming along and then clunk.

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