Friday, May 31, 2013

Analysis of "Promenade" by Lorraine Doran

Original poem reprinted online here: "Promenade" by Lorraine Doran
Originally read: February 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lorraine Doran



When I was reading this poem, I thought the definition of "Promenade" for this poem was "a ball."  Today, I went to check the definitions of promenade just to be sure.  The first definition, I feel also applies to this poem, "A leisurely walk, especially one taken in a public place as a social activity."  And so if this poem is the speaker walking through somewhere, that'd make sense.

Because the people met on a walk don't make sense.  On the page, I tried to decipher every image and metaphor as they are connected to one another.  At least the tercets led me to believe that there's a consistent pattern going on.  What is consistent (if this is indeed a leisurely walk) is that the speaker is going in one direction describing scenes or superficially judging scenes -- there's no going back.

The shift in perspective doesn't go back.  The first stanza is in second person with the focus on a woman finding comfort in a dirty and the extended (dead) metaphor of how the "she" found comfort in a river with the same traits and goes internal.  This is the end of the metaphor about dirty.  However, technique wise, there's an attempt to bring all this together, but I guess the art is within the fail to do so -- the fail to make sense out of something thought out of in a simple walk.

The prayer sequence focuses first on usage (three times) and then applies the times used to anaphora of "Blessed."  The prayer is described as the speaker uses "when something proves the world / exists"  Note it's not for the speaker that sees something that proves the world exists -- the catalyst is something (not internal motivation).  The list of the blessed are inane "sick day" "things that open" "strange backyard" which, comparatively are not so surreal to the events noted in the beginning.

Okay let's think about tomorrow.  That's the sense I get from the last line of the penultimate stanza, but the image that the speaker goes back to is the observation of a dress which is the shape of crickets but is seen upon as green.  Kind of a signifier/signified thing going on at the end. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Analysis of "Late Confession" by Gary Soto

Original poem reprinted online here: "Late Confession" by Gary Soto
Originally read: February 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gary Soto








The reoccurring image here is the orange.  Not only in this poem but from the poem "Oranges" also by Gary Soto.  Did I pick this up on my first read? Nope.  So I bring this up first because I wonder how much of a conversation this poem and "Oranges" have with one another.  Is it only the image?  Or is there contextualization issue where one image of the orange in a poem brings a different light to another image of the orange  The idea behind this is focusing how poems connect with each other, perhaps through a collection, or solo.

As of now though, I only have this poem by itself, and, although I have read "Oranges",  I feel that this poem stands on it's own and the image of the orange (and also others) within the poem creates unrepentant nostalgia.

So late confession stands for a confession in the most religious of terms.  Here we don't know the age of the speaker, but the poem plays with the idea of age.  In the first stanza, the images overpower the confessional aspect of the poem.  Here the surreal images of an angel with an orange in a dream butts up against the image of the speaker only seeing black and white images, "[...] clouds dirty as towels / And geese I have yet to see again / Darkening the western sky."

Following the image comes a slight narrative in the second stanza, here the speaker confesses on dipping a toy within "dirty water" and sunk him to the bottom.  Once again the focus is on the images where the speaker focuses on the "painted-on eyes flaking off."  So why am I harping on the images in this poem.

Well, this poem is meant to serve as a "confession" and usually I expect some emotional baggage, or some sort of judgement call (what I did was wrong or right).   Rather, which is very important to note in this poem,  the speaker is confessing the event as much as he can and is awaiting judgement from "Monsignor" or even the reader.  The speaker is making himself vulnerable.

The last stanza of the poem goes back to the images of the "orange," "angel" and "windowsill"  Where the speaker acknowledges that "there is no angel with an orange at the edge / of my bed."  Then this line comes after the acknowledgments, "There is no soldier / of God."   Here, the implication of no "soldier" of god should come off as blasphemous, but the poem sets up a sort of observational stance, and even though "no soldier of god" can still come off as blasphemous, the context of the line is different -- not aggro, rather observational.

I think the final four lines of the poem sum up the poem:

"And the outside, between this living
And this dying.  Monsignor,
Saintly man of this child's wonderment.
When will I see the geese again?"

A couple of things that make this part overly sentimental to me.

1) The over generalization of "living" and "dying," -- here the speaker is trying to sum up the meaning behind the process, and in essence directing (overly) the reader to see what the images mean.  Yes, life and death -- but why focus on that?

2) "Saintly man of this child's wonderment" is the first judgement call of the poem in the guise of observation.  The adjective of "saintly" is loaded and forms a question of what is saintly -- what has the speaker done to make the judgment of the man which is made through the lens of "child's wonderment"  A little too honorable in judgement.

3) "When will I see the geese again?"  Usually, I like rhetorical questions and I like this one somewhat.  Yes, the line harkens back to the geese in stanza one, and the rhetorical question asks (practically begs) for a judgement to attain the past; however, I question if the judgement is too abrupt?  Too much wanting to end the poem in the right place, on the right image.  The line is expected, but it might be a little too blunt -- looking for an answer too quick.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Analysis of "The Philosopher Savant Again Dreams of War" by Rustin Larson

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Philosopher Savant Again Dreams of War" by Rustin Larson
Originally read: February 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Rustin Larson



I can't believe I didn't catch it on my first read.  This poem is an Elizabethan Sonnet.  Does this change anything from the first read?  Well, not really.  I struggled with how this poem operates, and I wrote things like, "misconception when further inspected," but I didn't address what is further inspected or what the misconception is.

Does knowing that this is a sonnet help me out as a reader.  Not entirely.  Yes, I know that there's going to be a volta somewhere, and there's going to be sections to think of; however, the style of this poem (white space, not entirely iambic, consistent rhyme scheme though) isn't the "typical" sonnet.  So, all I can take from the form, well is the form -- an expectation of a volta.

The first four lines of the poem work as a hyperbole.  The comparison between war and gardening is hilarious.  "Chives are sacrificed."  Going by the title though especially focusing on the part, "dreams of war" the humor has a slippery quality to it  Should I take the scene as humorous (as is [of course not]) or should I take the scene humorous at first then tempered with the realization that the speaker is projecting war in the most innocuous situations  -- a sort of PTSD after effect.

I'll go with the latter, or should I go with the former?  This is tricky because the initial way I see the first four lines tempers the way I see the rest of the poem, especially the poem.  And I think there's no other way around it -- it has to be either or (at least for me).

Because "A red bloom" can be looked at as an image in a garden that goes along with the absurdity of the hyperbole or the red bloom can be a symbol of the expansion of blood or something like that.

Even the aside in the middle of the poem, "Th subject is rather summery" lingers on the idea of context.  What is the subject of the poem?  

This question leads to the "you" in the poem.  I think the "you" in this poem refers to the speaker's other self because there isn't even the slightest hint of the "you" referring to the reader or another person.  How the "you" operates in this poem brings the poem back from the absurd to the philosophy -- or rather absurd philosophy.

Proof:  empirical:

"Into the throat of the wolf fall deeper
As you draw closer, be repelled, draw
The grotesque imitating some pasture
And think it beautiful."

A surreal observation  I think here is where I got lost.  There's a push and pull of images (beauty/grotesque, falling towards/repelled) which follows the style of the first stanza but is a bit more focused on the you having this struggle.

The "volta" reaffirms the push and pull, "Your image is there and juxtaposed." And, in the end (rereading this as well), there's still a lot in this poem to decipher.  I'm more inclined to work with the hyperbole than the surreal. At least with hyperbole section of this poem, I feel that there could be a wonderful, yet tempered expansion of the absurdity; meanwhile, the part where the speaker tries to temper the philosophy reads like it's trying to hard which makes sense for a savant; however, the style, to me, is off-putting in the latter half.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Analysis of "Ars Poetica" by Natania Rosenfeld

Original poem reprinted online here: "Ars Poetica" by Natania Rosenfeld
Originally read: February 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Natania Rosenfeld







"Ars Poetica" is a very loaded title.  Ars Poetica --Poetics of the speaker (this was my definition I brought before reading the poem.  Ars Poetica -- "The Art of Poetry."  This term sets up, especially in the title, forces the reader to look at the construction of the poem and how the form, subject, and mode is in relation to the form, subject, and mode.

And I did just.  Past me read and put comments like, "The conjunction of 'or' brings a sense of separation -- theme reoccuring in the previous stanza.  Forced from the speaker or style."  When I was rereading the poem (out loud) again I realized something about the difference between past me and the reader I am now.

Yes, I can look at the form, subject, and mood and discern what these things add to the creation of poetry.  However, now I see that the poem is comprised of three parts (duh, right) where there's a subject -- always a woman in different periods of her life and how the women looks upon certain situations.

I.
An elderly woman who smokes and appears to be at the bitterest end of her life, "goes early / to bed with a glass of gin."  The subject is hearing an art piece, "Aida's sweat [on a red cloak]." 

This piece of information is on the side.  So it's what the item does for memory -- have the woman remember bits of an opera, "O terra, addio"  And this is synechdoche in a sense.  That, the majority of the time, most people don't remember art piece by piece, word for word -- and it's not even the poem itself that people remember.

People remember the feeling of experience of a moment -- whether the moment occurs in a poem or not. 

II.
The crux of this part is, "West or East."  There's the forced juxtaposition in the same sphere.  East/West = "The Chinese masseuse leans her palms on the sill above Main Street" and the Wes/Eastt = "Grandmother bent to pick rice in the Yunan Province."

Place and person contrast which leads to the final line, "Always currents to listen to."  Maybe a nod to the collective unconscious.  Or rather, there's so little description of character and a lot of philosophizing the possibility of a scene  including these two subjects.  In any case, the second stanza in part 2 goes even further away from the subject.

III.
The last part has a girl and a snail.  The girl takes on the role of the observer, who sees the images the snail creates, "blazing a tail, his / toothed tongue scraping."

Scraping a scene, an undisturbed scene:

"The Panes turned opaque.
Sometimes a ray pierced his
mossy domain.  Did he feel
her presence when she tapped?"

So the snail is the only "he" (genderized?) figure who is distant from the girl in a sense that she keeps him but let him do his own thing -- and he seems to do his own thing much to the curiosity of the girl.  The narrative is different from the above two because the style is like looking at something from a child's point of view verses the more adult point of view.

What's the difference?  I'm not too sure.  I know that the second stanza had a didactic feel to them, and the first stanza was more about the internal (how the subject sees a piece), and the last one feels more like an observation -- a curiosity for the feeling.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Analysis of "Dinner Out" by Christopher Howell

Original poem reprinted online here: "Dinner Out" by Christopher Howell
Originally read: February 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Christopher Howell







I was looking this poem up to link to it, then I ran into this youtube video of a man, Hektor Munoz, reading the poem out loud.  Now when I first read this poem, I probably read the poem in my head.  And here's the real danger of reading a poem in the head -- the automatic construction of both theme and meaning, if too strong, will override the actual words on the page. 

So after listening to Hektor Munoz read "Dinner Out" out loud -- yeah, my interpretation the page is somewhat different than what is actually there.  I'll get to that point soon.

I do want to point out that the stanza focuses a lot on images.  The construction of the images are nice, but a little too nice, a little too precise; meanwhile, the actual place is a not remembered.  From the first stanza, there's a feel that the speaker has a selective memory and/or presents selective images.  For example, this part in the first stanza

"[...] I preferred the Canton
for its black, and bright red signs
with the dragon leaping out of it
and sneezing little pillows of smoke."

There's further description of the interior in the first stanza which could be a symbol, however, I don't take these images as symbols.   I keep rereading them and they register for me as escapist images.  Note how the speaker focuses on the image of a preference, meaning that where he is going is not where he prefers.  Also with the image, there's an expectation of a comparison -- this place versus other places, or rather, what does the speaker prefer.

And, comically so, there's a set of rhetorical questions that go along of what does the speaker want in regards to food.  My analysis on the page is quite different actually.  I thought the second stanza was a dialogue between father and son on what to eat.  The "we" in the beginning kind of foreshadowed another person.  I actually attached the line "Sweet and sour?" to the father.  I think this is a wrong interpretation of the poem for two reasons:

1) There is no mention of the father in the first stanza (yet, there's a we).
2) There is no explicit modifiers to the rhetorical questions, and even though I interpreted this as a dialogue, the poem completely changes if the second stanza is seen as a dialogue or internal monologue.

I'll keep with my current interpretation that this is the speakers mundane internal monologue that has the father's metaphor of noodles "deep fried worms," as a sense of remembrance, because the internal monologue sets up a separation between the speaker and the moment.

Then the next stanza focuses on the meal and how the father turns to the son (confronts) and ask a simple question, "How you doing, son?"

Then the core of the poem happens in the first line of the last stanza, "Fine, Dad. Great, really, [..]"  Here's the kick.  There's no separation between the dialogue and the stanza, or this could be interpreted that the speaker doesn't say anything and the response is internal.

So that's how past me came up with conclusion from further separation and the speaker going internal from the last lines, "and drove and drove, / though we hadn't far to go,"

I actually read the last line as "we hadn't gone to far"  but that is not the sentence, but does this change my interpretation.  Sort of.  The separation is apparent and it's only a little more further until it's gone versus the separation is there and there's no turning back.  Yes they are different concepts, but the focus is on the speaker being the catalyst for the separation, not so much the father.


Analysis of "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats

Original poem reprinted online here: "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats
Originally read: (a long time ago, but for this blog) February 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Butler Yeats







I just listened to this poem read aloud by Colin Farrell, and then I read some of the comments for this poem -- a very dreamy, nice touching eulogy for a loved one.  And yes I can see that.  The tone of this poem is very loving (because love is repeated multiple times = love, right?) and how the speaker is so tender to the subject.  Not really.

A couple of things, even though the subject is probably near death, the subject is capable of reading and/or taking down a book -- or this is the construction the speaker is addressing.  Also,  the second stanza kind of focuses the love idea to the a singular focus that disperses at the end which fits with the rhyme scheme (a b b a)  rhymes in the middle and rhymes at the end.  And, yes, the poem is in iambic pentameter -- probably one of the most read, but most subtle (meter) poetic devices that, upon further inspection and realization, are meant to memorable, as in easy to remember (rhyme, meter, etc.)

These little techniques, though, contrasts the actuality of the poem.   The speaker is instructing the older construction to read this poem that it's in a book.  The speaker wants to guide the subject into discovery through a very warm, "and nodding by the fire"  and nostalgic, "Your eyes had once," mode.  The speaker creates these very conditions.

In the second stanza there's a weird moment where the speaker acknowledges the worldliness of her beauty, but states that "one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, / And loved the sorrows of your changing face;"  Okay I have to admit this is pretty suave that the focus is on love throughout time rather than the individual moment of beauty.  But that inner voice in me is that the "he" loved his constructed version of her the one that had "sorrow" or was a "pilgrim."  But then there's that other side of me that argues that what the speaker is doing in less than two lines is showing that the he loved her emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  Yes, I will continue to argue with myself about the second stanza.

But not the semi-colon at the end of stanza two which leads to the connection between the subjects current self and the current epiphany.  There's an assumption that the subject learns that the man loved her completely (and currently does) in the second stanza.  What happens in the end is what the speaker wants to happen:  "Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled"  and I think this is the real tragedy in the poem.  The speaker -- (the man in the poem) wants this epiphany to happen, no matter the time and space, but has to construct it in the form of a poem rather than actualizing it.

The last image could be a reference to many things: death, immortally watching, an allusion to God.   Yes, but the image, although can be interpreted in many ways, leads to the same conclusion of loneliness from the speaker -- a sense of distance away from the subject.  Will the subject realize anything, who knows.  But as the reader who read and gained insight and experience from this poem, yeah, I realized a lot.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Analysis of "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks

Original poem reprinted online here: "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks
Originally read: (a long time ago, but for this blog) February 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gwendolyn Brooks


I forgot that this poem was after the Richard Cory poem.  Also I feel dumb because I didn't realize that bother had a 1st person collective narrative (we).  Currently, I wonder why that aspect of the poem didn't draw me in.

I think one of the main reasons is the rhythm of the poem.  Every sentence after the first stanza is only three words and they all start with "we." The repetition of "We" becomes more mesmerizing with each line that I get lost within the rhythm.  Especially when Gwendolyn Brooks reading this

Also in the link, she discussing the background influence of the poem and the sort of meaning of the poem.  Furthermore, she also admits that this poem can be read in a different ways "Jazz can be looked at as a sexual reference."  However, she doesn't dismisses the other ways of reading this poem.

There's not much for me to add here -- the rhythm of the poem matches the content of the poem as something simple and too the point.  I want to add that the collective we deals with greater and darker scenes the further in the poem.

This is how I listed them:
1) "Real Cool" Group thought/reasoning/aspiration

2) "Left School" Leaving School (education/academics) for a life. [looking back, I think I took this line too seriously -- it could be that they leave school for the day -- which makes the end more tragic actually]

3) "Lurk Late" Change in schedule -- play at night, sleep during the day

4) "Strike Straight" -- Don't know, play pool?  [I'd like to add that the "we" are focusing on Dionysian pursuits]

5) "Sing sin" (see above)

6) "Thin gin" [so the poem starts to become more sing songy here -- but I'm cool with it because it seems
like the "we" narrators are getting more and more drunk -- on drink, on freedom perhaps]

7) "Jazz June"  Jazz as a verb?  [So I can see why people would think "Jazz" would be another word for sex, because the function in the poem is a verb (or at least that's what I'm trained to look at)]

8) "Die Soon"
The last line doesn't come as a complete shock, but there's multiple tones in here.  Since the poem can be seen as a Dionysian in a sense, there's a bit of sarcasm with the last line.  Like saying, we're going to die soon, let's just keep going. Carpe Diem.

Or the last line could also be a realization that they will die soon and what good is school if death is imminent.  I think this point of view brings a more social perspective to the piece because of the "we" narrative.


Analysis of "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Original poem reprinted online here: "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Originally read: February 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Edwin Arlington Robinson



So the "we" narrative has been done before and reinvented through stories like Kanthapura and A Rose for Emily (oddly, I cannot remember works that use the "we" narrative before this poem was written).  So what does the "we" narrative contribute to a piece

1) I think isolation is the main point.  That the "we" narrative is a collective thought (everyone is thinking this way) against the construction of the subject through the lens of the collective thought.  For example, if the collective thought that  subject was weird -- the style and the narrative adapts to the collective style.

2) In the "we" narratives that I've read, the collective doesn't know the "exact" nature of a person.  Richard Cory, who seems to have everything he wants, kills himself at the end.  Emily, who lived her life alone, has the corpse on her bed.  There is a sense of shock finding how the individual is different.

So there's the "we" narrative perspective -- there's also the form that accentuates the separation.  The rhyme scheme happens on opposing lines.

What separates this poem from other work that use the "we" narration is also the fable like build up and tone in the poem, "He was a gentleman sole to crown, / Clean favored, and imperially slim."  The Word choice here is especially "sole to crown" (which has a dark foreshadowing connotation in it as well) and the adjective "imperially" to describe slim.  Both descriptions area bit surreal exaggerations with dark consequesnces.

And that's how the description goes foreshadowing something bad happening with overcompensating description, "But still he fluttered pulses when he said,"  "And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -"  "we thought that he was everything"  The more grandiose the description, the more the anticipation builds (I'm thinking about how I read this the first time so long ago).

Then when the end comes -- the brevity comes as a confirmation of the truth, "Went home and put a bullet through his head."  This is an action that can't be disputed or built up by the "we' narration -- this action has to be accepted.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Analysis of "A Song" by Ghassan Zaqtan

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Song" by Ghassan Zaqtan
Originally read: February 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ghassan Zaqtan





 So I keep thinking in my head war poems are really hard to do. I once was asked, "do you know any Vietnam War Poems."  No, not really.  Yes there's been poems about World War I and II.  But nothing too recent, and I wonder why.  It's not like poets have stopped writing about wars -- all topics are on the table.

Yet this poem doesn't address the casualties of war.  What this poem does is take away that emotional sentimentality line that (the emotional suffering of war) -- yes, I think by now that most people will agree that emotionally speaking -- war is bad, and instead shows the aftermath of war in a non-Hollywood fashion.

Note -- I'm referring to the concept of war being written in poetry rather than the individual stories  like "The Death of the Turret Ball Gunner" by Randell Jarell  where the speaker shows the traumas of war.

So the focus here is on the tone of the poem.  How the cynicism undercuts some images.  "The glory has been evenly split / among everyone"  Okay right here, the concept glory (The inflation of pride from war in a sense) is being addressed which is condensed down to a medal for all to see (external) for the leaders (note -- not soldiers or people who died -- leaders).

And for those who died, "finished its cycle."  So the line here cuts in many ways.  One of the more prevalent for me was more of a circulation effect.  Like the pictures of the dead on media, and we morn for the loss; however, this line could also refer to the cycle of war (which is also a foreshadowing device as well) that the dead will always pass.

I think the poem loses some momentum in the addressing of "you."  When I first read this I didn't address the you, rather the tone of the speaker.  And even know, the you seems underwhelming in one sense but adds something interesting in another.

Interesting -- The speaker is talking, most likely, to a soldier who has seen it all as well -- at least someone who is going to "smoke your whole / tobacco pack / before the next war comes" (the hyperbole adds to the cynicism -- this poem is full of hyperbole).  And so who is the speaker really addressing in this poem for the audience to see.  The speaker seems to mirror the "you" as far as experience is concerned -- both seem sort of cynical and have seen the cycle before.  I think the interest for me here are how the parallels are constructed.

Underwhelming -- "You" brings a more personal touch to the poem --and with the personal, there's expectations on my behalf: why is the speaker addressing the "you,"  why is the "you" so important.  If the speaker wrote "a soldier" then the flow of the external would make sense: leader, dead, soldier.  But the "you" shifts directions that, within three lines, opens more possibilities than rather -- I guess end the poem (this could also be the point).

Analysis of "The Tyger" by William Blake

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Tyger" by William Blake
Originally read: Long time ago, but reread on Writer's Almanac on February 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Blake





I think this is a required poem to read.  What grade level?  Who knows.  In any case, I have different outlooks on this poem from when I first read it in high school, broke, college, broke, after college, broke.  I've heard some very interesting perspective about this poem, but to be honest, the poem lends itself to interpretation through the use of rhetorical questions (not the questions themselves, how they operate) and the images (which range from nature to allusive to industrial).  So I'm going to post down some of the interpretations I've heard an how they are argued.  Note two very important background information about this poem:

1) This poem is found in "The Song of Experience" which sets up a sense of time, distance, age to the poems in the collection.  This implication is relied heavily on for analysis.

2) The poem is a companion poem.  It's companion is "The Lamb" which is found in "The Song of Innocence" which indicates a contrast through the distance of separate poems rather than stanzas or within the same book even.  This implication is also heavily reliled on.

Marxist Criticism:
One person I knew argued this poem was against the idea of industrialization that the Tyger represents one visceral and violent side of progress versus the Lamb which is a symbol of the innocence used to create progress.  Both sides represent the proletariat side.

However, the "creator" who owns all the tools "hammer" "furna and makes both the lamb and the tyger represents the bourgeoisie -- "he" creates but doesn't take responsibility for the creation only the profit of recognition from the speaker (recognition is just as important as money to the bourgeoisie -- apparently).

Structuralist Criticism
This criticism focuses on the speakers perspective.  See how the poem is in rhymed couplets in quatrains.  Yes, there is the difference between the lamb and the tyger -- but the poem is not about the difference.  Rather the poem brings both ideas to a parallel.

The rhetorical questions then are represent the idea of the Sublime.  Even though Blake style here is different than the usage of the sublime in Coleridge and Wordsworth, the pounding of the rhetorical questions show a sense of being overwhelmed by a creation in nature.

The question are directed at the creator, not looking for an answer, rather addressing the strengths and wonder of the creature for example, "what immortal hand or eye, / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry" (emphasis mine).   The focus here is the hand or eye  and how "immortal" or immortalized they are.

[last one -- "The Lamb" came up for a poem a day, I'll probably use other criticism I've heard there]

Athiest Criticism
This one is not even an actual literary criticism.  If I had to rename it, it would be Religious Criticism, but the Atheist adjective gets to the point.  For this type of analysis, the focus is on the implication of the background and reading into tone.

The over usage of rhetorical questions in this poem especially, and especially toward the creator shows the lack of answer or judgement from the creator.  With each question there's a sense of fear without answer, "And when thy heart began to beat, / What dread hand? & what dread feet?"  See how the turn happens with the adjective of "dread" as though the speaker had to create the judgement of the creation.  This creation is to be feared not to be adored.

And there's a sense of a frustrated silent surrender with the first stanza repeated at the end, as though the speaker wants answers, yet is unable to get concrete answers from above on why something so terrifying was created.

[So this is what I heard and how the arguments are constructed -- yes there's holes in all of them, and my own personal interpretation is skewed by these argument -- for better or for worse.]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Analysis of "Traveling Through The Dark" by William Stafford

Original poem reprinted online here: "Traveling Through The Dark" by William Stafford
Originally read: February 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Stafford




I remember reading this poem a long time ago, and I didn't know what it meant.  I looked straight at the narrative about a guy dumping off a still born into the river -- saving it from a harsh life.  The images are nice and describe the tension of the decision. Yes, the poem means this.  Past me even wrote this down to reaffirm my beliefs.

Now though, I'm looking at this poem differently.  First, the poem has the form of a sonnet, but not the rhyme scheme or the meter.  This adds to the incompleteness of the poem but some semblance of form is there -- form: something to reattain or discard.  Second, William Stafford, for a time, was considered in the Deep Image school of poetry with the likes of Robert Bly, Galway Kinnell, Louise Simpson, James Wright (I think these are poets all from the same school) and there's notable similarities -- the attention to the "dark" or shadow, the theme of nature, the "I" figure being a part of nature (versus the Romantics who were "overwhelmed" by the sublime."  Does all this matter for the reading?  No.  The poem works in either case.

Technique wise though, I'm going to explore this poem.

So in the first stanza and in the first line, there's an introduction of the dark and the speaker traveling through it -- perhaps a reference to the shadow, but a reference is just a reference -- the focus of the stanza is the dead deer on the side of the road -- not as an emotional tie, rather how the speaker thinks of avoidance and riddance of dead deer.

In the second stanza, the focus is the speakers observation as though tempting to go to the sublime through the observation, yet in the last line, the speaker takes action in "I dragged her off; she was large in the belly."  This line foreshadows the events in the rest of the poem, and also the dilemma.  Also note (for Carl Jung sake)  The idea and focus of the deer represent the Anima (male is about the male subject opening up to emotionality, and in that way a broader spirituality); meanwhile, the physical representation of the deer is the Animus ( animus development deals with cultivating an independent and non-socially subjugated idea of self) -- Animus in the way that the deer carried a child (representation of development).  Maybe.

Anyway, the third stanza, the key phrase here is "brought me the reason" which is a phrase that turns in multiple ways.  Yes, this phrase refers to the speaker figuring out why the deer was fat (baby inside); however, there's a switch away from reason (ironically) or procedural reason.  There's actually a stop in thought -- a stint of emotion from the line, "I hesitated."  Action, yes, movement (the speaker always in the move in this poem up to this point) no.

The fourth stanza is a bit surreal.  The speaker describes (I was going to say personify) the car with "lights" which illuminates the "truth" of the situation.  But ironically, the way the lights are being used in the poem is to hinder the movement of the poem -- shouldn't there be action toward the man and the dead deer next, nope, lights.

The lights are important in another aspect though -- the speaker is able to see "the warm exhaust turning red."  The color is important (change in season, time, emotion) however the word "exhaust" has equal importance through pun (exhaustion of continuous action or smoke coming from the "end").  The sound line, "the wilderness listen" is juxtaposed with the idea of "reason" which, through inference, could also mean silence (reason=silence / wilderness = sound).

The volta at the end is a very vivid visual -- "I thought hard for us all--my only swerving / then pushed her over the edge into the river."  In my notes I wrote "swerving -- to avoid, to to go off track."  Swerving also references the first stanza where "to swerve might make more dead."  The speaker is not trying to make more dead (or more of death -- stay in the shadow).  and pushes the deer (note not the child, even though it's implied) over the edge into the river. 

I do mention the child (a very visceral response) because it is difficult.  So difficult of an image to deal with that the speaker has to focus on the her -- the deer and let it go.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Analysis of "Legend" by Hart Crane

Original poem reprinted online here: "Legend" by Hart Crane
Originally read: February 16, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hart Crane








I have a hard time with Hart Crane in general.  He's poems like "The Bridge" and "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen" are interesting technique and subject wise, but very hard to decipher why and how those techniques and subject are used.  I like his work, but I kind of distance myself from his poems unless I want to spend many nights deciphering individual lines.

But when I came across this poem, I thought, "this one isn't too much for me to handle" after the first read.  And after the second read I know how I want to analyze this poem -- through one line.

"The legend of their youth into the noon"

This doesn't seem much but there are two words to look out for in the poem, "legend" and "noon"; or rather, how the speaker configures and constantly redefines these two words not through repetition, but how the words are defined through different perspectives.

"Legend as silent as a mirror is believed / Realities plunge in silence by..."

I'm not a big fan of ellipses as usual, but the idea of legend is a silent visual -- maybe a reference to Narcissus, but the "reality" is well silence.  So the focus of what a legend is is visual.

The second stanza introduces the I speaker and there's an idea of repentance nor "match" (pun probably intended) regrets.  I want to believe that the idea of not repenting or having regrets leads one to hell -- well at least for this poem, because the image (that, note once again, I inferred, not so much in the poem) goes well with the metaphor of the moth  towards the flame leading to the image of "tremorous / in the white falling flakes"  -- the moth turning to ash.

And then the line of "Kisses are,--"  the syntax, and the stand alone line of sorts -- this is the regret or repentance that the speaker is going to forsake -- "the only worth all granting,"

Past me wrote this about the entire third stanza, "Legend as a memory burned into the mind.  An individual moment that changes influences? self? people?"  When I reread the third stanza, I figured that this stanza and the last differ in tone.  The second has more of a longing tone, while the third has more of a didactic tone as though pushing away the sentimental implications of the "kisses" line. 

The fourth stanza reverses the senses when dealing with the concept of "legend" and "burning."  Legend takes on an "eidolon" stance -- one of a ghost or a smoking souvenir.  Something that's once again silent, but visually intangible even though the image is burned in the mind.  Furthermore, the image of burning becomes more visual with "bright" logic.  Past me wrote, "bright logic?  Making sense of 'bad' memory -- legend which is untold but remembered -- a legend that reflects onto self."  I also want to add that the simile as a legend returns in this stanza (from the first stanza), but the different is the adjective "unwhispereing" which goes towards bright logic (I thought it was an adverb at first).  The term can be heard a silence or something so loud (as in bright loud).  The word cuts both ways.

The last stanza returns to the sound image of "a perfect cry / shall string some constant harmony,--"  I really don't know about these lines.  I find these lines to make sense as a turn for the speaker to find the harmony between image, what is believed, to the actual -- however, the turn is too jolting as far as tone and image goes.  I like the last two lines better, "Relentless caper for all those who step / The legend of their youth into the noon."  The fire image at noon represents the highest point, also I think the closest point to the earth at that time (I'm not sure about the science in my logic here).  Also not the idea of youth as legendary, as a high point -- however doesn't apply to the speaker -- rather the images that the speaker is trying to attain.

Yeah, Hart Crane.  I'm pretty sure this is wrong.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Analysis of "February Snow" by Francisco Aragón

Original poem reprinted online here: "February Snow" by Francisco Aragón
Originally read: February 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Francisco Aragón









I didn't write a lot of notes on this poem when I first read it.   I think the narrative of the poem, the main core technique of this poem, and the ambiguous pronoun of "you" confuse me.  I had the read the poem a couple times to figure out there's three to four narratives (okay so it doesn't seem like I didn't figure out much, but I swear...yeah).

1) Narrative between the present speaker and a "you" who is traveling in Spain.
2) Narrative of how the war began.
3) Narrative of the Postal Worker
[4) Overall Narrative of how these three narratives connect with the speaker's life.]

I wrote "Narrative" too many times in the last two paragraphs; however, the poem is both dependent on understanding the three narratives and how they tie in together.  Also, form wise, if there are three main narrative points then the tercet stanzas would make sense rather than the poem be separated in sections which I'm going to do.  Counter-productive.

1. Narrative between the present speaker and a "you" who is traveling Spain.

In the first nine stanzas focus on the speaker and a "you" wandering around Spain.  The narrative is a traveler's log "in that maze, half-lost--Madrid"  However, the speaker tells a slight contextual tale about a landmark, "days before you arrive, / an Opel with false plates was parked"  So the speaker, at least has been in Spain for a while.  Also the knowledge of the past foreshadows the speakers perception and turn to narratives about the past.

The anecdote about the mother adds to the sense of the domestic.  Also, the symbol of the mother comes back to the end of the poem.  When I read the part about the mother the first time though I wrote down, "discussion of the personal."  Note though how I didn't point out who the anecdote is more personal for -- the speaker or the you. 

The speaker develops more of himself than the character of you in the last couple of stanzas in the "first" part.  There's the line, "And I think of you and your wife / and daughter: getting to see Madrid / in white, your visit winding down"  Here is projection on the image level.  The speaker associates the city as "white" which will set up the transition to the narrative of war.

II.  Narrative of how the war began.

First off the transition.  What makes the speaker think of the war? 

" [..] flakes flutter

and fall, dissolving before reaching
the ground -- aguanieve, he said
while from a town near Seville

B-52s were lifting off. . ."

Okay, so the shift occurs because the snow is reminiscent of a certain time frame.  The image shifts the speaker back to that time.  The sentiment is nice but the technique here -- the alliteration, and the ellipses, I feel, try to hard to dramatize the scene.  However, the narrative of how the war begun is only six stanzas. 

And within those six stanzas there's discussions of "car bombs" which is an exposition for the speaker to wander and  see  a group of men unable to work because of the car bomb.  This section is the most hazy and but transitions really quickly. 

I feel that the speaker quickly wants to compare the life of his friend in the present to this postal worker in the past.

III.  Narrative of the Postal Worker.

The speaker constructs the story of the postal worker waiting to work.  "as a boy, would plunge his hands / into the white, the cold / a sweet jolt."  Once again the idea of white is applied to a sense of innocence and bewilderment (tying in, in a sense, parts I and III).  The speaker keeps going on a very quick pace to marriage to a foreboding quote, "it's in / his blood, she [his wife[ would come to say"

The twist of the poem comes at the end

"hill: it is February
and she is picturing him
and the boy, up there now

playing, horsing around"

The reader finds out the the postal worker is now dead and the wife hopes the man  and the boy within him

are playing and horsing around.   Now the poem reads more like a movie at this point.  Part I leads to II leads to III then goes back to I based on image and how time changes from "war" to "peace."  How the image of white and snow always comes back around after and before the darkness of war.

For me, current me followed the narrative more than the poetic technique.  I could see this as a novel rather than a poem.  And when I look at the notes that past me  wrote, they address the narrative more than anything else.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Analysis of "Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart" by William Shakespeare

Original poem reprinted online here: "Sonnet 109: O! never say that I was false of heart" by William Shakespeare
Originally read: February 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Shakespeare







There's plenty of analysis on this poem -- well all of Shakespeare.  And usually Shakespeare sonnets deal with love, or cheating, or being in love while cheating.  Well this poem is about cheating on his rose (by any other name would smell just as sweet) and still be in love with her. Charming.

So this poem is an Elizabethan sonnet, but instead of separating the poem by the rhyme scheme (three quatrains, and then a couplet).  This poem is connected together like a narrative -- unlike the speaker and his "soul."

The opening line suggests that there's an argument and the speaker is playing defense, "O never say that I was false of heart."  There's an implication that he was called false of heart.  From hear the speaker then goes on to separate his physical self and where his "soul" is, "As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie. / That is my home of love;"

However, not only does the speaker instill the "fact" his soul is with her, he justifies his reasoning to hysically depart, "Like him [I think the him refers to Odysseus] that travels I return again [then this refers to Odysseus, cheating on Penelope with Calypso]." 

Then within three sentences, the speaker repentant, to angry, to dismissive:

Repentant: "So that myself bring water for my stain."  A sort of cleansing oneself of "sin."  Of course water washes away everything.

Angry:  "Never believe, though in my nature reigned"  Never Believe is some sort of command "(you should) never believe"  However, the tone here is a little bit different when there's a mixture of the command (as light as it can be) to the idea that the speaker is restraining himself the best he can.

Dismissive:  "All frailties that besiege all kinds of bloods."  Now, I think this is the reason why I chose this poem on Valentine's day.  What the speaker is implying is the fallacy that "all frailties"  (or weaknesses) besiege all kinds of blood (everyone in general).   If a guy or girl sees something they want physically, sexually, who wouldn't take it -- everyone has this weakness. 

So this is not about the argument itself, more of how the argument is constructed in this portion of the dramatic monologue.  Do I believe him?  If the order was reversed -- dismissive, angry, repentant, I believe I'd be reading a different poem --the blame goes from outside to in and the idea of repentance is valid and leads up to the couplet well: "For nothing this wide universe I call, / Save thou, my rose; in thou art my all" -- the reason for changing being close to the change.  This is the more cliche ending I think, but the most logical.

Now that the structure is more like this -- kind of like a loose cannon of pleading and anger.  I find this poem rather humorous in that aspect.  No, I don't believe him (of course he's not addressing me -- that'd be weird) but I find the change in direction and emotion more realistic for someone who doesn't want to repent and  still wants to keep his rose.  But, this perspective only works on the outside -- when "love" doesn't hinder "logic."  Perhaps.

In either case, well played Shakespeare, the ladies (and some gentlemen) still love you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Analysis of "Undecided" by Hal Sirowitz

Original poem reprinted online here: "Undecided" by Hal Sirowitz
Originally read: February 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hal Sirowitz






 


Past me wrote this about the last line of the poem, "The last line might be too sentimental, but I feel that this end is strong due to the ambiguous way to read the end: dismissive, genuine, desperation."  I reread and reread this poem and I understand what's going on -- a father telling his child (son) that they got him a gift of a shirt and, even though the parents has bought his son a shirt for the last three years, the father still cares.  Yes, this is where past me saw this poem as a bit sentimental because the "plot" of the poem is one of those after school special bonding moments, but for this poem, there's something else to it.

The difference in the poem is this, "Father said."  This is a small big point.  The perspective of what is being said by the father is the product of the speaker.  And, even though the speaker doesn't acknowledge the reconstruction, the poet had to show that what is being written is the "father" talking.

Now for poems like these -- where the speaker or poet is trying to reconstruct what is being said, there's usually a hint of bias in the lines.  For example, there's a sense of sympathy through distinct usage of certain words (i.e. wept vs cry, laughed at vs laughed with [this isn't the best example]) something like this.  However, in this poem, with the exception of Father said, mostly feels like what the father would say.

However, the exception is pretty big, "but that'd have been too impersonal"  Although the vernacular fits with how the father is addressing the child -- kind of like a sit down talk around the television -- the usage of "impersonal" refocuses the poem to this idea.

Past me wrote about the "impersonal line," "I like the irony of this."  I think what I meant to write was that the one being impersonal is the speaker (We kept asking you, but you wouldn't / tell us" rather than the father who is trying to explain the value of the shirt.

So going back to the last line, "the impersonal" actually goes towards a very distinct tone -- all three:

"Just because you don't wear them doesn't negate our intent"

Arguably as well, "negate our intent" is another one of those phrases that shows the construction or a certain bias -- and it's toward the subject not the speaker.  The speaker at this point never really shows himself rather than being address.  So yes, we have no choice but to see the father's words as genuine, ans yes, we see a sort of desperation because the father is explaining and asking and wanting to connect.

Dismissive is from both perspectives.  The speaker is easy to be dismissed if the speaker doesn't show up.  And, at this point, there's a certain frustration in the father with the defensive phrase "just because" and is dismissive of not the son, but the father's attempt to reach his son.  No matter what, the son isn't responding. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Analysis of "Ash Wednesday" by Louis Untermeyer

Original poem reprinted online here: "Ash Wednesday" by Louis Untermeyer
Originally read: February 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Louis Untermeyer





This poem is comprised of two Italian sonnets.  What I didn't think of when I wrote notes on this poem is how the  form operates in this poem.  Usually, Italian sonnets are divided into an octave (first stanza) then a sestet (second stanza).  In the octave, there's a question being presented; meanwhile, the sestet answers the posed question.  Now with this poem, the core of the poem is what the answer to the question or the first sestet.

The poem starts off thought with the question, "Shut out the light or let it filter through" -- the tone is one of a command but a command that (falsely) gives the power of decision to the reader; however, the speaker continues on what the filtered light illumiated: "feet that grew, "twisted and false," "cupids smirk from candy clouds," "The Lord, with polished nails and  a perfumed hair."  The images are strong and cynical against the representational figures.  I agree/disagree with the last line that what is outlined is a "parody of the divine."  On a line basis, it's not a great iamb, but, more importantly parody (although sort of fitting the iamb) is a watered down description of the above images and the litotes the word parody creates sets up the idea that the other side (shutting out the light) is far more worse than a "parody."

The second stanza describes the "shut out the light" part with a operatic epicness, "Writhing and dark, the columns leave the earth /  to find a lonelier and dark height."  So there is darkness and loneliness; however,  "The church grows dingy while the human swarm / Struggles against the impenitent body's mirth."  So the dilemma is this: dark epic loneliness, or the church, described a "parody of the divine."  -- "Shut out the light"

And the poem could end there; however, the focus then shifts away from the speaker to how the "light" operates without  illuminating/being the church.  In part 2 of the poem, the light is anthropomorphized and does some childish acts, "he stops to fling / Handfuls of birds with green and yellow throats"  "he goads / each blade of grass the ice had flattened down."  Past me wrote, "does the light represent a douchebag Jesus?  Throwing birds, messing up the grass."  Currently, I see the action more metaphorically -- the light, without the crutch of the parody, has to act as a parody to the outside world so instead of "goading people" he "goads grass."  How far will this "light" go.

The sestet still confuses me as far as the description.  There's a sense of the absurd and the surreal with this description, "He daubs the chestnut-tips with sudden reds / and throws and olive blush on naked hills / That hoped, somehow, to keep themselves in white,."  Who does the we refer to?  People searching for the light, (note: not the speaker asking for the light to be shut off -- the speaker turns away).  This kind of makes sense.

"Who calls for sackcloth now?"  I know this is an allusion to something, but can't quite know where.  However the tone is apparent with this rhetorical question -- a snarky tone like "You can't keep me down."

The color red does come back at the end in "His blood" and the douchey actions from the color becomes attributed to the serious "the resurrection -- and the light."

One thing I haven't addressed is the cities mentioned in the beginning of each section of the poem -- "(Vienna)" and "(Hinterbrühl)".  There might be a personal and historical reference to those places (note that the poem was printed in 1928), but I feel the message is strong enough where the references (if I decided to look them up) would add on to the poem rather than hinder the poem.

 




Analysis of "Editing Job" by Carl Dennis

Original poem reprinted online here: "Editing Job" by Carl Dennis
Originally read: February 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Carl Dennis







From the title, the poem works a great deal with humor and puns.  This poem sets up a sense of wit to it in multiple levels: language, irony, perspective.  I think I'll start from back to front on this one. 

Past me wrote this about the perspective, "Editor takes on a 'god-like' voice over biblical text, further into the poem the speaker becomes more vested in the text."  Furthermore, the tone of the poem is quite humorous when the speaker initially takes on the God voice, On top of this, I would like to add that further  into the poem the character of God has less and less emotional attachment to Job and just "replenishes Job possessions."  Until finally at the end the speaker turns the humor into cynicism.

The irony in the poem is what past me wrote about at the end of the poem, "The end is interesting because there's an added 'passage' humanistic quality to 'god,' but I feel the poem over over extends itself here trying to accentuate a point."  Rereading the poem, yeah, that extra "passage" does accentuate a point but the added irony to the poem is that the speaker is being overly didactic in some ways with lines like, "In the hearts of all who believe / that suffering shouldn't be silent."  But there's a reason behind what's the speaker writes; meanwhile, the God created just goes on an "irrelevant, angry tirade."  God acts more human, the speaker acts more god-like.

And this poem is about language, not like denotation or connotation behind individual words rather how to insert multiple meanings within a single word to turn the poem.  As I pointed out in the beginning, Job represents the biblical passage and also work -- and the speaker does do work and edit the passage -- manipulates like God manipulates Job to get more meanings.

This change in language is somewhat innocuous like in stanza 3, "The issue is justice.  Is our hero / Impertinent for expecting his god / To practice justice as well as preach it." Here the idea of justice is repeated within the stanza and the definition is explained from the general to the personal -- how the word relates to Job, God, the situation etc.

However, also note that god is lower cased in this stanza and only here in the poem.  How "justice" doesn't relate to big G god (concept) but little G god (individual).




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Analysis of "Spaces We Leave Empty" by Cathy Song

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Spaces We Leave Empty" by Cathy Song

Originally read: February 11, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Cathy Song





This poem took me a long time to analyze when I first read it.  I finally had to write down the reason why.  "Is this poem about rape?  or does it matter?  Is there something wrong with my interpretation."   This thought stems from the external scenario of the poem -- a thief enters a window and steals something with the mother looking on helplessly.

I thought to myself, "why did my thoughts go there?"  There's no mention of sexual in here unless implied or interpreted by the reader.  However, after rereading I have a new interpretation on the poem -- which is also disturbing for me since I'm thinking I'm either trying to deflect my original interpretation or, perhaps, I do see something new.  In any case, I'm getting too far away from the poem.

The focus in the first two stanzas in the poem is the jade.  The attributes of the jade is that it's owned by the speaker, and the act (note not the jade itself) of the jade slipping from the wrist elicits the nature metaphor based on "smooth." 

1) water leaving the mountain
2) silk falling from a shoulder
3) melon slices sliding across the tongue
4) the fish returning. 

And here, from my first read I was thinking these metaphors had a sexual connotation behind them especially, "melon slices sliding across the tongue" (akin to "Persimmons" by Li-Young Lee, and "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams.  However, I see the images as an ingrained history within the jade -- history that is important to the speaker.  Could the jade have more meanings than this -- of course.

When the third stanza comes around there's a really huge sense of ambitiousness where whatever is connoteted and extrapolated from the metaphors becomes amplified from the lack of presence from the speaker, and the focus being on the image.

"The bracelet worn since my first birthday"  is a blunt statement, but the most ambiguous at the same time.  Yes, there's the line which concretely states the relationship between the speaker and the jade, but not the age of the speaker was at that moment.  What does this mean?  However, the images are interpreted, the speaker removes herself from the poem with metaphors and refocusing on items "the sound [of the bracelet cracking] could be heard /ringing across the water."

Then in the next stanza the focus is on the mother and the thief getting away.  The mention of the nightgown versus the the thief's howl once again focuses the poem to images, lists like "The cultured pearls. / The bone
flutes. / the peppermint disks of jade."  And yes, with the adjective noun combinations listed, the weight of meaning and connotation is in the adjectives, "cultured" "bone" "peppermint disks" -- which brings a mixture of age, culture, and I guess taste (weird one with peppermint).

Past me wrote this for the last stanza, "this might be a little much and forced, it's like a summary of emotion."  Well, not so much.  Where is the emotion in the poem?  There's anger from the mother, but what of the speaker.  The poem is based around metaphors that 1) distance the emotions 2) develops the atmosphere and scenes as experience for the reader but not for the speaker.

What the last stanza does is set up this concept of "the clean hole / in the center."  And for me as a reader to interpret where the hole is.  However, the speaker has already interpreted the hole as "Heaven: / the space we left empty."  And I think past me focused on the last two lines rather than the first two.  What is the clean hole?  Emotional connectivity to the scene?  The bracelet?  The absence of the bracelet?  The distance between the mother and the daughter?  A lot of interpretations.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Analysis of "No Return" by William Matthews

Original poem reprinted online here:  "No Return" by William Matthews

Originally read: February 10, 2013
More information about the Poet:  William Matthews







Three stanzas sestets.  When I think of sestets, I think of Freytag's theory of Narrative -- exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement.  Even though there's five parts to the theory, my mind thinks this way probably because of all the sestets I've read (including Italian sonnet form).  Now what does this mean to the poem that isn't narrative (the last half of the poem is narrative in a sense).

Exposition -- "I like divorce"  In the first stanza the speaker drops a pretty loaded word, "divorce" into the poem; however, the speaker redefines the term rather quickly by not dwelling on the definition of the word rather focus on the tone.  "I like divorce," the full first sentence reads a bit sarcastically for me.  I think it's the brevity that punctuates the sarcasm.  Anyway, the line sets off humorous images like letters of resignation smelling like "lemonhue."  What caught me off guard with the first stanza was the line, "Do you like the scent of hollyhock? (yes) But the addressing of the "you" comes out of nowhere.  Past me marks the you as "the one leaving the speaker."  No, I don't think that now.  Oddly enough, I take the "you" as the rhetorical to set up tone.  It's not who is addressed rather the question asked which is based on the constructions of "I like" or "I love"  Really disarming lines, smell imagery, lines like "to each his own"  The first stanza sets up a sarcastic, but not too biter, disarming tone.  This was one long exposition part (longer than I thought).

Rising action -- "I love a burning bridge."  Note how the speaker writes he loves a burning bridge -- the thought of a bridge.  Not to burn a bridge, not to have someone else burning a bridge -- the concept of a burning bridge is what he "loves"  The statement is so strong here that there's the expectation of follow up.  The follow up comes in the form of an extended simile.  The speaker compares a burning bridge to watching a small boat fall by waterfall.  There's lines like, "a little and a little more and then" which build up the simile, but the line also continues the tone, sarcastic, but disarming.  The climax then is set up to be 1) a change in tone 2) a change in image.

Climax -- "the boat points doomily down"  Again this poem is not a narrative, but has elements of a narrative.  The climax should be the most explosive thing in a narrative, but for this poem -- the climax is stated a bit level even with the adverb being "doom."  This line brings me back to the first line "I like divorce" because maybe the action of saying a person wants a divorce isn't as important as the lead up or the drop off.  That "divorce" the concept in itself defines only the separation and not what leads to the separation and what happens afterwords.

Falling action -- "the screams of the soon-to-be-dead / last longer by echo than the screamers do."  Ah here we are, in the beginning there was a focus on smell, now at this juncture sound.  The tone changes to have a bitter tone with the description of "soon-to-be-dead."  The description is too on point for the end.  The line is like hearing someone saying "I told you so" snarkily.  Then comes the image of the echo lasting longer than the screamers -- which brings up the idea of the aftermath.

Conclusion -- there is no conclusion.  Why did I want to bring this up when there's a couple more lines left in the final stanza.   This is just a reminder that the last lines refer to the simile comparison of "I love a burning bridge" to a falling boat.  Also not the absence of the "I" out of the poem in the last two stanzas.  If the poem started out what the speaker likes, then the end of the poem refers to moments that are so distant to the speaker that the images are set up to be more for metaphorical interpretation rather than speaker epiphany.

Let's go to the video tape, the news-
caster intones, and the control room does,
and the boat explodes again and again.

Metaphorically speaking, these action, so disparate from the simile of only the boat falling, brings an observer aspect to the poem.  And I take these last lines to be more of a metaphor for the internal mind when things don't go so well.  The "control room" could be about how one tries to hold back painful memories, but in this case the "control room" acknowledges or wants to see the tragedy again and again for what reason? Entertainment? the rush of self-depreciation?  In any case the Michael Bayesque last line -- "the boat explodes again and again" is the returning of same crash -- the same moment when things fall apart.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Analysis of "Persimmons" by Li-Young Lee

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Persimmons" by Li-Young Lee
Originally Read: May 22, 2010 in the collection "Rose" (my Goodreads review here)
Originally re-read for this blog: February 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Li-Young Lee









When I first read the collection "Rose" I thought the writing was so smooth.  The way the narratives constructed themselves seamlessly from memory to present especially in poems like "The Gift" and "Rose"; furthermore, the narrative don't come off as fables, or overly-didactic, even though the narratives themselves have a fable and/or didactic nature to them.

Rereading this poem in Febuary, and now, I  knew I wanted to go back to this poem because of the technique Li-Young utilizes here.  I want to know how he constructs his narratives and learn from his techniques.  I also want to know how the poem continuously borders on sentimentality -- sometimes the line is crossed, but the majority of the time there's more to the scenes.  I also want to have the voice like the speaker who seems vulnerable but not pitiable, learned but continues to learn.  So there's a lot I want to learn from this style; however, I'm pretty sure I haven't picked up on the "how" completely though.

So in a formal essay, I'd go over point 1, 2, and 3 and how they'd fit along with my definition.  I should do this, right?  Okay.  There are many narratives in the poem; however, the ones that stick out for me are the narrative of the school, the narrative of wife, the narrative of the father.

The narrative of the school is told through installments.  The first being where the speaker is "slapped [on] the back of [his] head" by the teacher for not knowing the difference between persimmons and precision.  The misinterpretation  starts off a narrative stream-of-consciousness based on both words which separate but meld the words together for example how the speaker (so smoothly) describes the way to eat a persimmon in very erotic terms, "chew the skin, suck it, / and swallow.  Now, eat / the meat of the fruit, / so sweet , / all of it, to the heart."  Maybe I'm just a pervert.  However, the description does lead to the stanza about "Donna."

First, I want to write that maybe the specific name brings a personal flair to the narrative.  Donna.  I can imagine that putting a name in a poem would lead to a) confusion or b) sentimentality.  However, the stanza doesn't go with the "I love you" approach.  Rather there's the attention to language -- how intimate language is like lovers.  Wow, did I actually write that.  Well these line:

I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu.  Dew: I've forgotten
Naked: I've forgotten
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

The stanza focuses on language, yet the approach is really important here because although it's translation -- it's personal translation.  The speaker gently brings himself to the definition and reminds the reader that the language between them is mostly between them.  We, as readers, look on as voyeurs who also learn something.

Then there's more misinterpreted closely related words like, fight and fright and when and yarn.  And the class not being able to know about Chinese Apple, persimmons.   There's a separation. The stanza about the mother is important to show the kind of relationship they had.  However, I feel the stanzas hit the sentimental hard since it's the speaker's interpretation of how the mother saw the speaker -- that the speaker could do no wrong.  I think that's where the line is crossed.  I can accept a one sided narrative from the speakers perspective in an observational sense on subjects like love and misinterpretation, even death.  But the add more elements then the risk is greater, and for me the stanzas are sentimental, but didn't dissuade me from the poem (I'm heartless but I like poetry -- not really a good mix).

The last narrative about the father returned back to observation with some self deprecation like, "I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question" where I feel  that the speaker shows how strong the relationship with the father is.  And when the speaker retells the story about the persimmons painting, I feel it's the father's wisdom coming out not the speaker's interpretation of the father's wisdom.

Yes the last lines of the poem:

Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Collects all the pieces of the stream-of-consciousness  narratives and brings an epiphanic moment to them.  Current me thinks it's fine -- I'm more intrigued with other aspects of the poem (listed above); however past me saw things differently:

"Lessons of the father -- the epiphanic moment is not one from the the speaker to the audience -- rather, it's the observation of the father to the son.

Why I dislike epiphanies in poetry...there's a sense of superiority -- that experience brings insight.  The speaker telling the audience "I found something out you should learn" .. Why not show the experience the best you can and let the reader decide?"

So when I reread this today, I thought to myself I'm mixing up "didactic" and "epiphany."  Didactic  enforces the lesson onto a reader -- "the moral of the story is..." which breaks away from most if not all techniques in a piece where the moral shines brighter than the piece.  Aesop fables is a good example of this.  Yes, work hard because you'll be the grasshopper who dies in winter.

Epiphany, although has some characteristics of being didactic -- is more focused on experience, the "I realized moment"  And there's a line crossed when the speaker says he/she learned something like "life after death" or "don't feed an angry cat" lessons better extrapolated than reiterated.  And the first part makes more sense.  The father telling the story to the son, the reader and the speaker as the observer -- there's no judgement call, no "you will learn this" rather a nostalgic lesson that the father has learned and wants to pass on to a son -- like in the poem "The Gift" and the poems in the collection.  The speaker wants to soak in all the lessons as does the reader.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Analysis of "Eviction Notice" by Dan Gerber

Original poem reprinted online here: "Eviction Notice" by Dan Gerber
Originally read: February 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Dan Gerber





Past me write down for the opening two lines  that they have a, "sing-songy quality and humorous."  So inspecting the first two lines again, "The spider from the rug / suddenly wondered where he was" not only has a sing-songy and humorous quality, but also a fable like quality.  In the first two lines we have a character who, through the description, has a heroic journey feel to him (ala Aeneas). 

Not that the poem goes for the Aeneid allusion, more of a demonstration of character which is undercut in the next line, "if spiders ever do;" which brings the focus back onto the speaker interpreting the thoughts and actions which is further explored in the the following three lines, "the world went white, / then dark, / then bright/"  not how the focus is adjective visual imagery -- simple devices that bring the reader into the poem and then suddenly out with the next line.

"when I shook him out of the tissue /     I used to scoop him out of play."  The focus i sback on the speaker an note how the speaker shows his hand in sorts by writing the phrase "out of play."  Th speaker is constructing the subject to his own device.

Past me wrote that the phrase, "unforgiving light" is cliche -- actually the whole description of the outside is a bit cliche and sing songy "play" "day."  However the poem turns in the last couplet (which also has a sing songy rhyme to it. "a wild-and-woolly minute ago, / he was king of the dazzling Navajo."

Past me wrote this down for the last two lines, perhaps couplet, "The poem sort of comes together in the last two lines since the description works together 'Navajo' clothing rugs and the metaphor 'Navajo' (out of a land -- diaspora)." 

And, yes I could see the poem going in this direction, but that's if I look to deeply.  However, current me could also see this as a sing-songy poem about spiders that are viewed in a non-visceral light.

Past me wrote this last comment, "The tone fits with ta sense of cynicism.  The beginning is a risk, the end is good, but the middle -- too much play? Cliche bring me out of it"  And rereading the poem, I feel the middle is more important that the beginning in end in structuring how to read the poem. Too cliche, not so serious.  Cliche with a mysterious element of why, a little serious.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Analysis of "Detail of the Hayfield" by Richard Siken

Original poem reprinted online here: "Detail of the Hayfield" by Richard Siken
Originally read: February 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Richard Siken






Past me wrote this down about the last line of the poem, "The last line utilizes the duality set up in the poem," I thought about what I wrote.  What I wrote wasn't very clear.  It doesn't point to the duality in the poem.  And after reading the poem, I'm pretty sure there isn't much of a duality in the end -- rather it's the speaker trying to condense two parts into one.

The poem starts off with an observer perspective, "I followed myself for a long while, deep into a field."  The lines sets up a somewhat surreal, yet objective experience.  The "I" observer acknowledges  the surrounding but the followed "I" doesn't seem to have a consciousness yet.  The next line, "Two heads full of garbage" shows a certain filter.  The "I" whose head is garbage observer only subject at this point is the "I" followed whose head is also garbage -- a self perpetuating image.

The next two lines, "Our scope was larger than I realized, / which only made me that much more responsible" is very general.  I feel the followed "I" is the action of the poem, so does that make the observer "I" the subconscious?  The shadow?  I was thinking about this when I got to the fourth line -- what is the observer responsible for?  To balance out and justify the actions of the followed.  Perhaps.  I'm not to sure.  However, on the page, the observer "I" has to take more responsibilities the larger scope.

Then there's a break in the poem focusing on color which is the hayfield all around them.  And, at this point, both the observer and the followed have the same action, "We stopped. We held the field.  We stood very still."  It seems like action and thought come together as one for the singular line, "Everyone needs a place"

From here, the observer "I" details out  what the followed "I" can do, "You need it for the moment you need it, then you bless it -- thank you soup, thank you flashlight"  And here  I feel that the followed being grateful towards objects shows the "head full of garbage."  The term can be looked at maliciously (especially in the beginning) but applying the term to this moment shows an appreciation for the simple things.

Yet the observer I has a more judgmental stance with the last line of the poem, "and move on.  Who does this? No one."  I remember the reason I chose this poem was because of the last line.  I thought it neat that the last line refers to a greater social norm and the observed "I."  Yet the tone is one of disbelief or rather finding a type of person like the followed and not finding any value  in the followed.

So it's not a duality in a sense of two contrasting characteristics.  The core of the poem is "Two heads full of garbage" and where the term applies.