Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Analysis of "Generic" by Rachel Hadas

Original poem reprinted online here: "Generic" by Rachel Hadas
Originally read: January 7, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Rachel Hadas





I can only take cute for so long and the first stanza is enough for me.  When I read cute in the first stanza or even in the title I'm either bracing myself for a) let me tell you the song of my life in the most tragic/rewarding/tragi-rewarding way possible b) me hating myself for not being "emotional" or "disciplined" enough to read all of the poem and quitting within the first line.  I'm not saying the cute style is bad.  It's just not for me.

One of the redeeming factors of the  poem is the second stanza -- it's just a list of adjectives which has no direct noun.  Sure, the adjectives  could be talking about the book, the child, the old person, but just like the title "generic" the adjectives don't stick to one, or all, or any -- just like the dialogue in line three of the poem "No, I am the prettiest!" "I am!" "I am!" -- who in the world is saying each thing?

And this is where I think the strength of the poem comes in -- in order to not be "pinned down" in subject, the poem just blurts out ideas that could or couldn't be connected.  If the adjectives are connected to something then it's up to the reader, if they are not, then it's a list of adjectives that mean something and nothing at the same time.   Although I'm not a fan of "shifty as the moon," but it works really well (age represented by the phases of the moon -- it's meh simile, and it breaks with the rhythm of the barrage of adjectives).

For me the duo adjectives describing the water, "changed, unchanging." It's clever adjectives placed side by side.  There's a sense of subtle extremities there.  I just thought it was interesting when the poem doesn't put that much judgement on age (unless the reader is supposed to take the adjective list as a judgement call).

As for the last lines -- I feel that the list of adjectives buffers against it, maybe though "the massive stones on which I love to perch / and gaze.." the qualifier for the scene brings the last lines to heavy handed emotional level of lament.  That's  what current me sees.

Past me saw something different: "Comparison to age.  There's kind of a sassiness to these lines, instead of lament due to the usage of play of words [word play] and love as a modifier instead of a symbol."

Hmm...I'm not sure of "love" being more of a qualifier than symbol.  Well, duh, the poem trains the reader to see all adjectives as qualifiers first instead of symbols.  Meh, it worked on me the first time.  The later times, I totally just skimmed that part over.

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