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.

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