Thursday, June 27, 2013

Analysis of "French Kissing" by Gregory Sherl

Original poem reprinted online here: "French Kissing" by Gregory Sherl
Originally read: March 12, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Gregory Sherl


I needed to read the "about the poem" the first time to understand that this is an allusion to Joan of Arc.  I did write down notes of what I thought about the poem the first time that focused on the idea of the "emasculated peace time."  But in my notes I didn't go further about that idea.

And today, rereading the poem after a couple of months -- I still don't see the allusion to Joan of Arc,  how the poem operates with the allusion.  Actually I do in a sense, but my focus the entire time is the speaker, and there's little hiccups which makes me feel I have to know more about the history of Joan of Arc in a not interesting way.

The poem starts off with a rhetorical question that does emasculate a man during peace time, "What is there left to do during a truce, but look at boys / swinging swords at the trunks of trees?" The line suggests a an emasculation through the alliteration of "s" and "t" which adds a bit of a humor with the context of peace time and the focus being on "boys" swinging swords.  This is a stretch indeed, but I'm already having this mindset apply to the speaker as well who is observing this action and I feel judging what's going on.

Then the ambiguous "you" appears, and I already spoiled the "you,"  but at the time I remember that figuring out the "you" was interesting because of the "you's" capability of being able to "reach into the sky & put down a phonograph, / & we listen to the helium in the stars."  So the relationship between the "I" and the "you" interest me in a surreal sense.  Here, I remember wanting more of the surreal with a bite to it -- that same type of sweeping undercutting with the creative expanse.  But then there's lines like, "But the clouds / are mad" which try to push the cliche into surreal, and a general visual description, "What more than dissatisfied nature, / the lakes rise to the sky, only to fall back down. / Everything not the same, but still everything."  With these lines,  I know they refer to the concept of "dissatisfied nature" however, the focus is off here.

There's four and a halflines in the beginning devoted to the tone and the set up context in the beginning (even if I know it's Joan of Arc) in the beginning; meanwhile, the next couple of lines are a bit visually conceptually -- taking away more of the relationship and definition and adding...grandiose perhaps?  I feel that the I'm reading a different poem.

The next line specifies the name, "Jehanne," and at first I thought -- nice personal poem about a woman name "Jehanne"  I didn't think to look it up at the time because I wanted to go back to the relationship aspect of the poem and the description of her at this point, "warmed by skin & thunder" fit with the description above, but with the description hyperbolizes Jehanne to a comic extent and with the sentiment of the speaker, "Please stay / People love & it's good" I started to question the genuineness of the poem -- or rather the progression of the genuine.  I felt that the poem started off genuine and this part should be taken just as genuinely, but the descriptions are overly done, the alliteration is humorous, the relationship is surface at best with a lack of description.  So the ingenuous tone would fit with the emasculation in the beginning -- but the poem is all over the place for me.

The scattered nature of the poem is punctuated with I think martyrs of "Rouen," "Seine", and "Jesus."  A good analysis would've looked up these names and see how they relate to the poem, but here are the lines they are used in:

"Rouen in a dream / I'll never have.  Or, to purify the Seine, to growl like a lion, / to cough angrily into the wind  Jesus, may we all die / the same?"

The previous line the speaker was spouting some philosophy "I've always said [..]"  and here I don't want to look up the names (even though I should because the allusion would add, probably) but the names are just stands for a philosophy.  The ideas go back to the "I" speaker -- The I will never have like "Rouen" or the I wants to "growl like a lion" "cough angrily onto the wind."  The weight of the lines are more of a support to the character of "I" but not the whole poem (If I'd look them up -- I would see...),  At this point, I'm just turned off by the overly didactic, overly hyperbolized, and scattered poem that has some good lines.

The last line is a line that adds to all the things brought up though: the "I", the relationship, Joan, and the sky, "I said His name too, I said it / In the morning not yet sung."  There's a lot of good play on situation first the "His" presumably referring to God (which Joan of Arc listened to) is called out by the "I" who has been spouting some philosophy and has been on a course to ally his thoughts with people like Jesus (making the line more cutting on the philosophical level), then there's the sense of the surreal nature of "morning not yet sung" which indicates a sense of passage of time foretold (Joan's ability). 

The transitions in such a short poem were really jarring and some of the lines were overblown, but the end ties the concept down really well, not so much the lines.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Analysis of "Spring Training" by Maxine Kumin

Original poem reprinted online here: "Spring Training" by Maxine Kumin
Originally read: March 11, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Maxine Kumin
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How long did it take me to know that this was a poem with baseball imagery, probably by the second line.  How long did it take me to realize that this is not a sonnet, just recently.   I think I wanted this to be a sonnet, I just miscalculated the stanzas (one extra) when I read it the first time.  However, this is important because there's no hard volta in the poem -- not in the couplet.  I feel the tone throughout the poem is the same -- a sense of wonder built by the imagery.

In the first stanza there's imagery of baselines, peanuts, and catcher's mitt -- but look how they operate.  The Baseline imagery is followed up by slight alliteration "smoothed to suede" which brings a visual dreamlike quality to the image -- something real in a surreal sense.  Then comes the the peanuts line, "ancient smell of peanuts" which should appeal to the sense of smell; however, there's a line drawn in a sand with the word "ancient."  Paired along with peanuts the smell should elicit a sense of nostalgia and/or history of the game; however, if someone (like myself) doesn't know the smell of peantus at a baseball game -- then the word ancient tells of the history of baseball through smell -- different sets of experiences with the same line.  Lastly, there's the sound imagery, "the harsh smack / the ball makes burrowing into the catcher's mitt" there's also a play of the word "smack" as in hit, but the sound is about catching something.

So why such detail in four lines, there's the introduction of the you -- and all the imagery feels like how the "you" would experience Spring Training.  This is "you"'s mindset.  There's more description of the you as ten and a location Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox <insert applause or boos here>).  Also the  word, "suppertime" brings a certain age into the poem -- to me there's kind  of a nostalgia with "suppertime."

Following the narrative into the third stanza, the ten year old "you" has "goosebumps in the dark" from the "keepsake ball" -- the diction adds to the sense of wonder and amazement about the game.  The next two lines describes the boy playing baseball with a "secondhand glove" which he softens with oil and tapes up his bat -- physical action to describe the boy being enamored with the game on a league level to a personal level.  Note, no emotions, just actions to prove devotion.

The second to last stanza fast forwards years later where the boy (now a man in the physical sense) is still enamored, "whatever league you're in / still tantalize" then the allusion to Carl Hubbell's magical screwball which is "sixty years unhittable." The adjective/noun combination shows a sense of age, but foreshadows a sense of defeat as well.

With the couplet, inevitably when writing a poem about age, there's a death that comes through in the diction of "Sunset comes late but comes."   Yes, there's the image of the sunset, however, the diction of "late but comes" brings a sense of sentiment to the poem -- not the sentiment I harp on as overly emotional, but the sentiment that explains that death happens in which the statement is obscured by images.  Past me wrote, "The end is sentimental 'for the future; mentality couplet, line reads like from a retired player."  Well that's a harsh way to put it. 

Yes, the "slender hook of hope" is sentimental but for who -- for Victor?  At this point, I don't think the poem cares about audience because the audience is for Victor -- the sentiment is for Victor, the reader is just to observe the why.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Analysis of "Because You Asked About The Line Between Prose and Poetry" by Howard Nemerov

Original poem reprinted online here: "Because You Asked About the Line Between Prose and Poetry" by Howard Nemerov
Originally read: March 10, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Howard Nemerov


Six Lines -- a quatrain and a couplet.  On top of that there's an alternating rhyme scheme, and the poem is somewhat iambic pentameter.  I'm pointing this out this time because the main separating line between prose and poetry (before the advent of free verse) was that poetry was in form and prose was not.  And I think that's it...no, really.

And this poem does address the differences in an ars poetica imagistic way.  The first line sets up a blur between words like "feeding" and "freezing."  These gerands have homophonic and visual similarities which parallels the debate between poetry and prose -- similar but something is different.

In the second line, there's the introduction of the you which watches the drizzle into snow -- again similar visual cues with only slight difference -- one is solid (then turns into a liquid) and the other one is a liquid.  Visually though -- maybe from a distance they look similar.

But then on line three, "Riding a gradient invisible" the description is for the snow and the sparrows.  And here I think, oh here's the different but not really.  The snow and sparrows have a sense of refinement to it -- a gradient invisible -- fine details not seen to the naked eye (most of the time) or are reconciled into one image/symbol.

The details are able to change through the shift of description in line four, "From the silver aslant to random, white, and slow."  So I guess, according to this line, poetry can be seen and written in multiple different ways and forms (Elizabethan Sonnets verses Petrarchan Sonnets). But so could prose...

Speaking of sonnets, the last two lines are a couplet a reminiscent of the Elizabethan Sonnet couplets -- there's a volta which addresses the "you" -- "There came a moment that you couldn't tell"  Between the sparrow and snow, between feeding and freezing, between prose and poetry.  Then comes the epiphany ending, "And then they clearly flew instead of fell." 

Here, there's something tricky with this line "they" -- yes the automatic assumption for me is that the sparrows flew -- but didn't the snow also fly in a sense?  Off of the back of the sparrows the snow flew away and became distant.

So what does this mean about prose and poetry -- both act in one way or another -- maybe poetry is the snow riding on the back of prose.  Maybe the poem is saying nothing much until the interpretation "clearly" states one side or another. 

Analysis of "Meditation XVII" by John Donne

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Meditation XVII" by John Donne
Originally read: March 9, 2013
More information about the Poet:  John Donne



So I just want to point out that I found this on Poem Hunter first.  Then after doing some research that Poem Hunter didn't post a poem but a prose piece -- a meditation of John Donne.  I'm not much of a John Donne scholar so please forgive me for not knowing (and those who might find this useful for you exam/question/essay, heed this as a big warning to go to the other sites that have better analysis).

Then after doing some research about this meditation, then reading it -- there's a lot of consistency with "Holy Sonnet VII" and "No Man is an Island" (well duh the phrases are in here), but furthermore, this is shows a more linkable connection between both poems -- meaning, style, theme, etc.

And of course the meditation is about death, the soul, and religion then.  I'm not going to go over the entire meditation word by word because that's not what prose is about (I don't want to start up that prose vs poetry debate again -- yeah okay).  I think prose is more focused on the overall message and poems focus on the details getting there.  Sure prose could be about the details, and poems could be more about the overall -- but for me and my background, that's how I see both until the writer trains me to read the work in a different way.

Anyway,  I'm going to focus on some quotes that I got from the piece:

"When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into better a better language." This metaphor does a lot -- synechdoche (man is a page of a book), allegory (translated to a "better language" a sort of transcendence).  Here I feel that Donne is trying to find an emotional core -- reasoning -- spiritually on why we pass on.  I think there's comfort knowing that everyone passes on, no one directly chosen to live forever...well one.

"so this bell calls us all" "The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth"  So there's a long passage which focuses on the idea of the bell tolling -- there's focus on sound, symbolism and meaning.  The bell does represent a funeral bell, and at the same time an inviting bell for those to follow (into the next life) "If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer."

"No man is an island is an island, entire of itself."  This line happens after the bell sequence -- as though to reinforce that there's another place after death, and, furthermore, that man is "part" of something spiritual and/or physical and the world wouldn't be the same without him.

The next part I didn't highlight, but underline the number of times her wrote "misery" and "affliction" which is predominate towards the end.  This is more real.  This is more based on Donne's physical ailments -- so much so that "This affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine."  I'm pretty sure that this is a pretty bad metaphor in which Donne is trying to bring the physical reality to the constructed reality based on meditation and religion. 

Yeah the gold in the bowels part...no.

The last line reinforces that belief in god, "by making my recourse to my God who is our only security."  Note in order to believe, Donne has to apply belief to everyone -- that everyone is going to go where he wants to go -- imagines them to go -- he's not alone.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Analysis of "Surface Tension" by Chelsea Rathburn

Original poem reprinted online here: "Surface Tension" by Chelsea Rathburn
Originally read: March 8, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Chelsea Rathburn




The poem is in quatrains and there is no particular rhyme scheme.  There are moments of sound in this poem that has a lingering effect, "close" and "lows" in stanza two; however, there's also some repetition that doesn't fit for me, "pleasure."  And this is what I think the goal of the poem is in a sense, that there's some sonic good times that pushes the theme of awkwardness, but there's awkwardness in the repetition which comments on how the theme is utilized.  Awkward.

Any the set-up the poem is a 1st person collective we narrative and this is why I find the form interesting.  With quatrains, there's always a sense of togetherness, balance in a sense -- with the awkwardness there's also the comfort (familiarity? complacency?).  So I feel the quatrains strengthens and foreshadows the tension between both ideas.

And then the narrative starts.  The setting is at a park, and, somewhat predictably, the couple (introduction of "us") decide to delineate from the path.  Then in stanza 2, there is a slight sense of hyperbole with, "less a pond than a low, / wide fountain, and the boats / elaborate miniatures" I only note a slight sense because the change of the pond to a fountain -- but here's the awkward part.  The focus in this stanza is constructions -- fountain, and miniatures in a natural setting.

I'm making something out of a small detail (ha), but then again there's that at odds feeling in stanza 3, "girls in ruffles and boys / with serious faces."  Sure the description focuses on the physical (material and bodily), and the descriptions aren't necessarily at odds with each other -- just the descriptions don't fit right -- as thought they supposed to fit, but not really.

Then the ubi sunt in stanza 4 "How often, how needlessly, / we complicate pleasure / with the pursuit of pleasure," There's the attempt to drag the reader into the grand metaphors of "pleasure" so much so that the concept is repeated twice.  And here i feel the line is forced -- the most artificial. And in a poem like this, I think the exposing of the artifice exposes more of the couple than technique actually.  Note how the speaker brings the other with "we" -- and, true, the "we" could refer to all mankind, but there's something deeply personal with the repetition of pleasure -- also the lead up to this point in the poem has ideas, images, and metaphor that discuss the idea of a couple (note the items listed above, okay recap) -- most obvious being boys against girls, but more subtle nature versus artifice, path versus deviation.

Tben this idea drops and we're back at the boat races which means the question is a) going to be dropped all together or b) the answer is found through even more metaphor.  It's going to be b.

There's an awkward construction in the fourth stanza, "We clamber on / the banks with the children / we are not"  This is the second most artificial line in the the poem since the emphasis in the line break, "we are not" forces the reader to think about the multiple meanings of "we are not" (a couple, children and the implications).
 
Talking about parenthetical, the last stanza points out something as well -- they both enter the boat race and, "(although we know / there's nothing really to lose)"  There's a sense of cynicism with this line -- or maybe I'm placing too much in it.  Yes, in a game there's little to lose -- but the couple that only has one voice loses the other. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Analysis of "When the Grandmother Dies" by Fady Joudah

Original poem reprinted online here: "When the Grandmother Dies" by Fady Joudah
Originally read: March 7, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Fady Joudah


The title is the first line of the poem.  However, this is not apparent until the poem is read and then backtracked.  The speaker sets up three different poems with a similar thread through the use of anaphora. 

For the first section, the focus is on distance.  First, the distance between what is actual and how information is spread, "It'll be kept a secret / from her four daughters".  The separation then turns to a physical one, "who'll be flying in / from three different countries."  Then this section ends with the reinforcement of distant "after years of absence / reunion ends."  Here the line "reunion ends," juxtaposes the distance -- that the idea of the sisters/daughters being united through the routine and understanding of distance, now they are forced to deal with each other.  Note:  This first section is a set-up one where this colors the idea of the main focus -- the daughters.

For the second section, there's the sense of the superficial, "it'll ruin summertime / for the grandkids,"  The tone of this line feels like a projected line, that the speaker, through a bit of the hyperbole through the word "ruin" places more emphasis on what the speaker thinks.  Then the shift over to more of a reasoning line where I feel the authorial intrusion is more apparent, "in their mothers' grief will eat / okra each day / fresh & leftover / till it tastes like ash."  So the forced simile of "like ash" is more of authorial intrusion than of experience because the taste description is so symbolic that it jutts up against the scene rather than enhance.  Here, the speaker wants the reader to know that there are multiple reasons why summertime is ruined:  grief, okra, malnutrition.

In the last section, the focus on the closest person to the grandmother -- the groundskeeper.  The name itself has symbolic meaning of someone who takes care of plants, places, things, which is grouped together with the grandmother.  However, I feel he's the most genuine in asking for money because the intent of the daughters, and the grandkids come off as one sided -- they grieve and the poem is not about character development which reinforces the idea of distance.  And in the last lines, the daughters are shown being a bit caddy, "Were it not for you / the dead would have died."  However, I don't believe that this would be a direct quote from the daughters -- rather, a stylized poetic line that comes at the end of the poem to emphasize a point.

For example, the multiple readings behind "the dead would have died" directed to the groundskeeper.
1) Relates to the grandmother, whose memory is kept alive through the distance
2) The way he kept the grounds alive from near death -- neglect and other things.

Yes, the line comes off too artificial, too pointed -- just like the daughter's grief in a sense.

Note: read "About the poem." interesting parameters to write a sequence of poems in.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Analysis of "Boy at the Window" by Richard Wilbur

Original poem reprinted online here: "Boy at the Window" by Richard Wilbur
Originally read: March 6, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Richard Wilbur




Alternating rhyme scheme in an octave form.  There's a loose iamb and meter, but it's mostly iambic pentameter.  And when I see a form like this, I think that both stanza work similarly like the first part of the Italian sonnet -- the questioning part, rather than the sestet -- the answering part.  And I think most importantly there shouldn't be a volta, that sharp turn which changes the subject or gets to a point.

I'm not writing that this poem doesn't have a point -- rather the question is the point, right?

However, the first part of the poem borders on the sentimental (I keep writing borders, but one day I'll actually state that 'this is sentimental') because the whole scene in the couple of lines is a boy weeping seeing his creation -- a snow man -- melt in the rain.  Also there are techniques that bring humor, "Seeing the snowman standing," usually rhyme plus alliteration foreshadows humor, and on top of that add in "The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare"  a overreaction of a boy, then the poem starts off a bit awkward.

I'll admit there was a part of me that was like "next."  Yes, losing something is sad, but...well...losing something is sad.  I don't think someone is going to go the opposite -- losing is something is great (unless being overly optimistic or cynical).  I especially don't think a young kid would say losing something is great.  However, this line -- although heavy handed with symbol, made me curious of the poem, "Returns hims such a god-forsaken stare / As outcast Adam gave to Paradise."  So these lines pretty much comes out of nowhere.

The personification is forced.  The snowman takes on the attributes like "god-forsaken stare as outcast Adam gave to Paradise."  A very Prometheus (to mix religion and/or mythology together) imagery.  Meaning that a person had to sacrifice something in order for forward momentum -- Prometheus with fire, Adam (accidentally) with knowledge, and so too this Snowman with...

Nothing actually.  The snowman is "moved to see the youngster cry."  This could either be a) a projection from the boy to have his creation appear to be as sad as him (somewhat likely, but this poem is written in third person).  b) an absurd personification to add to the humor of the poem -- in which the allusion to Adam is more of a humorous aside c) overly symbolism -- or the physical manifestation of maturity -- where the the snowman represents lofty ideals that the boy is learning at this moment.

Maybe all three.

In any case, I find the last five lines are the core of the poem:

     Though frozen water is his element.
     He melts enough to drop from one soft eye.
     A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
     For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
     Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.

In the first couple of lines there's the play of the rain actually causing the tear or somehow the snowman anthropomorphizes and actually creates a tear of "the purest rain."  And pure hear is meant to either be taken sincere or cynical -- I don't think there's a middle ground here for the child (note this poem is called "Boy at the Window"  there's already a separation in place between the boy, but the focus is always the boy).

And with the focus on the boy, who is going through a young creation crisis (what he makes will be eventually be destroyed) there's a focus of his surroundings.  The place is someplace safe and loving, but who is the fear directed to -- the environment, the people living inside, the boy?  Maybe all of it?  Either way the last emotion is contrasting to the whole sentiment of the scene as though the poem, if going further, will have to deal with the emotion in the poem or, "Having no wish to go inside and die."

So the question, I think, is what does a person do when their creation doesn't work and there's no way to save it, and, doesn't want to be saved because such change, such death needs to happen?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Analysis of "White T-Shirt" by Lewis Ellingham

Original poem reprinted online here: "White T-Shirt" by Lewis Ellingham
Originally read: March 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lewis Ellingham


So color is prevalent in this poem, and when I mean prevalent, I mean the symbol of the color white -- pure,  and black -- reclusive, nothing.  Both represented by white (young man) and black (speaker/atmosphere.other parts of the man). 

So the speaker, the atmosphere, and the man himself are basically the same thing because the physical surroundings surrounding this white shirt stands out, the scenery and thoughts just fade into the mundane and the shirt is set up as totemic.

I think I'm getting too far into it. Yes, I use the ambiguous pronoun of "it" because this is how the poem starts, "I caught sight of it at a bust stop."  Now, I usually don't like the use of ambiguous pronouns, but after reading a couple of poems with them and how the noun operates -- I get a sense of this.  When "it" is in the poem, the focus should be on the opposite.  For example, the focus of the poem is the "I" and the verb "sight" stands out most.  What does this mean -- well the first line sets up how the speaker views things -- objectifies things, concepts, parts, ideas.

And the main concept is the "white T-Shirt" which stands out regardless of "human forms" blocking the way.  And even though this is the focus, the first line indicates the poem is more about the speaker than the concept which kind of justifies the exposition in the next couple of lines starting with, "I was riding" -- and with these lines "it" (referring to the white T-shirt)comes back as a noun and the descriptive focus is on the speaker, "right side, sheltered."

How does the speaker feel about it -- objectified.  The description of the "white T-shirt" and the man wearing is very physical: "the other arm dangling, his hips relaxed, /  every color -- hair eyebrows, lashes, half-day beard shadow, / heavy cotton pants, a / jacket a dangling from the dangling left arm -- black"

So here's whee I should insert the discussion about color, but I'm going to write about line lengths and breaks.  The breaks feel like they're trying to reconcile content, but is unable to.  As if the speaker is aware about the artifice that would objectify the young man, the shirt.  And even though the narrative description is as linear as it could get -- each broken line, to me, further fractures the figure into an artifice. 

Meanwhile, the retreating space -- the white space represents the retreat -- the inability to appopriate any emotion from the speaker. 

So yes, this is a convoluted way to say there is a representational color reversal -- no I won't go back and try to be clear.  Although I should.

Anyway, as the poem goes further -- the figure all black (all "shadow" akin to Jungian terminology).   The poem reinforces the "white" trope -- beauty, clean, bright.  Here, I think the lines could be taken as bringing in emotion -- perhaps lust; and yes, I would agree, however, the description is more generic, open, as though to keep the object as an object rather than a want.

The though which is reinforced with the line, "a white T-shirt, an / object" and the last line, "white, / an object still.

I do have to note the departure at "Castro, Market, and 17th street" and how their eyes met.  These lines feel more like a transition that has to happen in order for the narrative to be complete, but the poem isn't about the narrative, but how the speaker observes, objectifies, and does nothing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Analysis of "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold

Original poem reprinted online here: "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold
Originally read: March 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Matthew Arnold





First off, there are notes about this famous poem on Wikipedia: notes, analysis, historical background. Anything you could ever want to know about this poem you can find very thorough and rich thoughts with a simple google search.

I'm not sure why you are still here.  So I must assume that you are a spambot -- and as such, me, of the "living" and you who are dead with no conscious are the "ignorant armies  [that] clash by night."  Keyword here is "ignorant."

I was just going to end here and let wiki handle it, until I read this on the wiki, "In Stefan Collini's opinion, 'Dover Beach' is a difficult poem to analyze, and some of its passages and metaphors have become so well known that they are hard to see with 'fresh eyes'."

So let my ignorant rambling analysis commence, for I have 'fresh eyes.'  Fresh, ignorant eyes.

So the poem is vers libre where, even though there's no distinct meter or rhyme, there is an emphasis on meter and rhyme occasionally.  Usually, this is done to a) refocus the reader on the subject at hand and/or b) refocus the speaker on the subject at hand.  On my notes, past me tried to find a rhyme scheme (which was futile).

However, the poem starts off with the mention of French and England and the separation by a strait.  The language is very exact -- not that much of flowery description, just observation about landmarks.  Then what I find interesting is the command tone change with the line "Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!" as though to tell the reader or speaker that to go away from the the thought (symbol/representation/projection) of the landmarks (France and England) and experience the place, "Listen! you hear the grating roar / Of pebbles which waves draw back, and fling."  I think this line segways well into the more metaphorical process. What does the wave represent?  What do the pebbles represent?  Or at least the metaphor reading in the last few lines is reinforced in the last three (rhymed, second being an off rhyme, lines), "Begin, and cease, and then again begin, / With tremulous cadence slow, and bring / The eternal note of sadness in."  What is there to remember with these lines -- the speaker interpreting his own work.  The waves are bringing the "sadness" in.  So back to my last question.  If the waves represent sadness, what do the pebbles represent?

Representation has to wait for another day as the allusion of Sophocles is in the next stanza.  I looked this up actually (not the meaning of the poem, but "Sophocles" and "Aegean").  And the only connection I found was the play "Antigone."  There could be a correlation between how Antigone trying to do the right thing by her brother and her uncle, but ultimately being punished is the "human misery" that "ebb and flow."  Also, though,  the speaker is projecting his image of Sophocles -- and look how the projected image mimics the speakers actions.  I'm not writing that the speaker saw himself as Sophocles, rather that they both were thinking of tragedy in the personal level to expand to the epic and vice versa.

In the next stanza, the opening of "The Sea of Faith" has religious contexts and I remember looking the term up but not knowing what the term referred to.  This will hamper my ability to read the poem.  And although the allusion is interesting, the thought process of the speaker is what drew me in.  How the Sea of Faith is now on an ebb, "Its melancholy, long withdrawing roar."  Also in this stanza there's th introduction of the I.  With the introduction, there more of a sense that a speaker is being prophetic and putting himself out there rather than an accumulation of only philisophical thoughts.

"Ah, love, let us be true"  Usually, I'd wonder what "us" referred to, but I think the other thing in the us refers to the concept of love.  This line along with the introduction of the I speaker is trying to change the outlook of the speaker and the poem -- not one of "sadness" or "human misery" or "withdrawing."  In doing so though the speaker returns to the internal, observant, distant  perspective, "To lie before us like a land of dreams."  Then the list of adjectives to describe the "land of dreams" which doesn't have: love, light, certitude, peace, or the ability to help with the pain as though to chose this place is the better of two evils because these adjective cannot be physically confirmed, can be mentally constructed.

Then comes this iambic pentameter line "and we are here as on a darkling plain."  Note how most of the syllables can be read as stressed or unstressed.  Ultimately, there's no place to turn to.  There's nothing to look forward to as "ignorant armies clash by night" -- the English and the French,  the physical self and the mind, a strict form and free verse. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Analysis of "Growing Old" by Matthew Arnold

Original poem reprinted online here: "Growing Old" by Matthew Arnold
Originally read: March 3, 2013
More information about the Poet: Matthew Arnold









  The poem is in quintains and I don't know why.  There's kind of an arc set up there, but it's not really harped upon on the poem.  Instead the poem opens up with a rhetorical question "What is it to grow old" and right there I feel the audience is set.  There has to be some interest about growing old (which is also in the title) -- because the questions don't stop coming.
1) Is it to lose the glory of the form?
2) The lustre of the eye?
3) Is it for beauty to forgo her wreath?

Yes, but not alone

4) Is it to feel our strength - not our bloom only, but our strength decay? (for this line in particular, the line break here brings an emphasis on "strength" in the positive, only to be undercut by "decay" in the next line -- the break of expectation)
5)Is it to feel each limb grow stiffer, every function less exact, each nerve more weakly strung?

Yes, this and more!

Okay, broken down like this -- the poem comes off like an infomercial where the reader expects what "growing old" is not (which of course the speaker utilizes in the next couple of stanzas).  Also note that all the rhetorical questions focuses on the physical and/or the "form."  From the physical standpoint there's the eye, beauty, strength, stiffness."

However, if looked upon as a "form" construction/metapoetics point -- (damnit I just realized this now) the lines alternate in syllables -- 6-10-6-10-6.  I tried looking up the form (not another analysis of the poem) to see if it's a fixed from.  I don't know why.  I was going to write that the lines were inconsistent and the focus being more on what death "does."  But I'm wrong with this.

Moving on, the poem then goes on to what growing up is not,

1) 'Tis not what in youth we dreamed 'twould be!
2) 'Tis not to have our life mellowed and softened as with sunset glow, a golden day's decline!
3) 'Tis not to see the world as from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes, and heart profoundly stirred; and weep, and feel the fulness of the past, the years that are not more!

So the reasonings here are accentuated with the exclamation point which may seem a little overboard, like a constructed passion stating "here, here is what it's not"  But note how the "not" sequence goes discusses expectation and ambitious -- which eventually fail -- more of a mental thinking sequence: dreams, mellowness, being a prophet. So form here, the speaker takes on the authority role and states what it means to grow old.  This is more like a basic argumentative rhetoric sequence poem: set the question, state what it's not, step in as the authority to state what it is.

"It is to spend long days
and not once feel that we were ever young"

A bit sentimental, but okay -- we were never young focuses more on only feeling old.

"It is to suffer this [weary pain], / and feel but half, and feebly, what we feel / [...] But no emotion - none"

Desensitized to pain caused by age -- it's been seen/felt before.

Then in the last stanza there's a turn to the highly metaphorical:

"It is the - last stage of all -
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man."

In this stanza the stage reference (akin to the quote from "As you Like It") comes up so it's a little cliche, but then the image of the stage completely shifts away to the idea of the self frozen, being a phantom; meanwhile, the outside world "applauds" the withdrawn self and in turn blames the living.  A cycle basically.  However, I don't know how the cycle works.  The "we" brings in a universal cycle and is it as we grow older we become less of ourselves, but the world doesn't care and will applaud the hollow ghost over death instead of helping the phantom which blames the living for being the phantom in the first place?

Not the best analysis on my part.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Analysis of "Rule Book" by Lauren Shapiro

Original poem reprinted online here: "Rule Book" by Lauren Shapiro
Originally read: March 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lauren Shapiro





So this poem can be mistaken from a found poem because most of the lines are rules to some things like amusement parks or being a model (the usual troubles of regular citizens), but there are some lines here that take away from the sense of the "found" and more of the "constructed" through the use of hyperbole and litotes.  The game, in a sense, is to separate the realistic from the constructed.  Also note, that rules are made by authority figures and, in some point in the poem, the authority changes.

1) "At the age of ten you will be allowed / in the deep end."  -- internal rhyme brings a innocuous feel to the line.  Also this shows that the speaker is addressing someone.  Within the next couple of lines, the personal "you" and the speaker will disappear from the poem and the focus will be on more generic "you" and the rules themselves.

2) "32 inches will get you / on Thunder Mountain."  --  The line break focuses on the "you" but I feel the emphasis is on separation.  32 inches / Thunder Mountain.  Again, a somewhat whimsical line with the play on height, but the implied age that these rules address becomes older.

3)  "You must be thirteen / with perfect vision to ride all-terrain vehicles." -- Here's where the hyperbole comes in.  Now I'm not sure about the age where one can ride an all-terrain vehicle; however, the "perfect vision" is too specific that it makes the line a little unbelievable.  So where is the focus in the line -- again "perfect vision" with the multiple meanings of "perfect" and "vision."  When a line is off in a found poem -- I feel that there is something that stands out -- that stands out.

4)  "Please, no unsupervised children." -- The double negative.  Anyway, the progression of age has gotten mature and broad, but not necessarily older.  There's more of an emphasis on a group than in the previous lines.

5) "No idiots."  -- humorous, feels more like an aside that juxtaposes the "unsupervised children" line.

6) "No mentally deranged wantons"  -- again humorous not only because of the dramatic turn of the line, but also the hyperbole of the language, the mix of the archaic and the colloquial.  This line feels like a set-up line where either the poem goes serious or humorous to compensate or follow through with the idea of rules.

7) "We do allow / two siblings for the price of one on Wednesdays" -- Not as outlandish, but not too serious.  Here there's economic implications for the restaurant.  Kind of feels like there's a return to normalcy here.

8) "Eight Young-At Hearts for the price of seven / on Sunday at 2 p.m." -- the stretch comes a bit humorous here because of the over specificity of the item of the time.  Where the beginning lines set up a more specific/general balance.

9) "Please understand that we cannot make exceptions" -- and here's a more serious line.  Here, what I feel, is the core of the poem.  What the speaker is looking for, exceptions.  And all the rules, more so in a poem like this, implicate what the other cannot get away with.

10)  "The rule is / you must be 6'2' with a chiseled profile and brooding eyes" -- I find this outlandish but not at the same time.  This would probably be an unspoken rule for male leads in Hollywood, but in the context of the poem, the level of specificity follows the last line, but not the first couple, as though the poem has to become more specific in justify not being an exception.

11)  "Size 32-C or larger to get / on the show" -- again outlandish and specific.  Also with this line and the last -- there's nothing the other can do to gain access -- well surgery, but nothing at the moment and in the moment.

12) "We do not accept coupons / or offer refunds" -- butted up against the last line, there's a feeling of not being able to turn back whereas the other rules a) the other could grow out of it b) wait for the right time c) surgery. So maybe this foreshadows a inability to return moment in the poem.

13)  "I sympathize / but just came out of surgery myself."  -- here's where I question what the question is to elicit this type of response.  There's the return to the personal here with the "I" and then the refocus on people not rules (in a sense).

14)  "My kid is also sick"  -- I feel this ties into the last line as well -- as though the person asking the question is pursuing other actions. Here, I feel the line hits on a emotional level.  I'm curious and want to know the answer, but for a found poem, I know I won't get the answer.

15)  "Are your eyes / at least two inches apart."  -- back to the specific/absurd/humor -- this is what I feel is necessary in this poem.  If the found poem ended with the sick kid -- the poem hinges too high on the sentimental side because the line "my kid is also sick" cannot be answered.  And even though it could be implied that the kid in line 14 and the kind in lines 1 and 2 could be the same, there's enough distance through the hyperbolic and absurd lines to at least question the relationship.

16)  "We're really looking / for someone with a better sense of the absurd / who is naturally blonde."  There's a hint of self-recognition here with the "better sense of the absurd" which is then undercut by "naturally blonde" line.  The sense of play is back so there -- again -- can be a toying of the serious (not tragically serious) and the absurd (not intellectually absurd) once again.

17)  "Don't feel bad, / we accept less than 1% of applicants." -- I feel the poem mirrors here.  This tone -- a bit of the snarky sincere goes along with the previous tone of "No idiots" so this line foreshadows would be slightly more serious -- but more witty and slightly hilarious rules

18)  "Are you emancipated? On Atkins?  Have you checked all categories that apply?"  These aren't really rules, but questions for an application -- rather funny things that lead to rules -- if you are emancipated then x, on Atkins then Y.

19) "Please don't call to hear your status" -- a very direct line which reintroduces that sense of authority as something cold and impersonal (which contrasts the beginning, and is directly opposed to the middle.

20) "The process is fully automated, so / you should receive your results in the mail."  Once again not a rule, rather the continuous wait for a rule (ruling) --  where does this person stand,  Is this person an exception?  Can this person be categorized in one group or another.

Remember, rules apply to a group of people, regardless how broad or specific; however, if a person is unidentifiable, then what rules apply? (in a non serious, philosophical manner).

Analysis of "The Wise" by Countee Cullen

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Wise" by Countee Cullen
Originally read: March 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: Countee Cullen



Personification of the dead as feeling emoting being from another plane of existence.  Well, perhaps.  The form here interests me.  Tercets with a rhyme scheme of (a-a-a, b-b-b, c-c-c, d-d-d).  Also each stanza is an end-stopped line.  I think the poem forces the reader to begin and stop making the didactic nature of the poem amplified. "You will learn from the wise (who happen to be dead) -- and this is what the living should do" 

Also the trinity symbolism is quite -- heavy (also including anaphora of "Dead Men" which repeats three times).  So there are "some" spiritual undertones with this poem.

Note though the progression the poem goes on explaining why the dead are wise:

1)  "How far the roots of flowers go, / How long a seed must rot to grow"  The theme juxtaposition in the the third line "rot to grow" redirects the focus on what the seed must do in order to grow -- die?  Not necessarily.  "Rot" in the sense that shed away the dead parts to live.  Also note that these images refer to the "Earthly plane" and what to look out for -- "roots" when to "rot" to "grow.

2) "[...]alone bear frost and rain / On throbless heart and heatless brain, / And feel no stir of joy and pain."  The transition to the "Earthly plain" to a more mental one is a bit harsh, but the poem goes further away from the physical and more towards mental where the image juxtaposition of "throbless heart and heartless brain"
is emphasized.

Now is the speaker saying "don't feel joy or pain" -- no.  The cause of these feelings are a "throbless heart and heartless brain."  And even though they might be separate ideas -- within the form of the enclosed stanza -- they are forced to be connected.  Don't feel joy or pain through by not having a heart or reconciling your emotions and your intellect.

And if one is overly intellectual or emotional -- then the joy (false without context) and pain (exaggerated just to feel) will be excruciating.

3) "They sleep and dream and have no weight / To curb their rest, of love or hate"  "Rest" in this sentence is used in the noun form -- so what the line implies has a dual focus --  yes the rest of being dead; however, the other focus is time to think -- not to make snap judgments. 

For example, when the dead "sleep, and dream and have no weight" there's the literal of sleeping, dreaming and well having no weight, but there's also the intellectual (where this stanza focuses on) where the time spent on not being stressed and thinking reevaluates the generalizations like love or hate.


The anaphora stops in the last stanza which break the expectations.  Now the poem shifts to the current living world with "strange men should flee their company." -- not to be taken literally (or maybe yes if you're into that).  Men who don't look back at the "dead" (let's say history) are strange.

Then the weight of the either/or gambit -- the speaker's intent.  "think me strange who long to be / wrapped in their cool immunity.  So here there's a placed judgment by the speaker who thinks others would call him strange to be "in their cool immunity" (note -- not being dead -- even though past me saw the lines as suicidal).

What the speaker desires is what the dead men are capable of doing: have the time to see the world grow, not feel joy or pain, not love and hate -- or rather feel or be the extremes.  Death is more of a middle ground.


Analysis of "On. On. Stop. Stop" by Saskia Hamilton

Original poem reprinted online here: "On. On. Stop. Stop" by Saskia Hamilton
Originally read: March 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Saskia Hamilton







The punctuation in the title foreshadows something in the poem, but taken by itself, the title seems too post modern.  A period after each word -- why should I pause after each word, and why is does the title have repetition of "on" and "stop"?  I think, at first, the title didn't make me hopeful.  The contents and technique in the poem though brought me in.

The first sentence plays with the idea of the present and the past:

"In the old recording of the birthday party,
the voices of the living and the dead
instruct twelve absent friends
on the reliable luxury of gratitude"

Past me wrote in the box to remind myself that "this poem is viewed in the now."  And at first, I wondered who are these dead people?  Why are some guests absent?  I think this is important to note about this first sentence -- the reader is seeing how the speaker views the past -- a bit too sure, a bit of instant recognition that this person has died recently or I haven't seen this person in a while.

In the first sentence, there's a struggle between the past and the present -- and not like the "oh the past is going to haunt me" past, rather "how can I stop interpreting the past the way I do" or "how far of a bias do I have with the past."

Also the first sentence seems like a third person perspective so there's the outsider (observation) versus insider (interpretation [note: not judgment which focuses on emotion]) perspective.

And the perspective shifts to "We" in the next couple of lines.  I don't know who the other person is, even after rereading this poem several times.  I can guess that it's the attempted compromise between the current and the past, but I find the shift into first person more relevant at this stage.  The shift into first person solidifies the speaker being vested into the past and present situation -- observant past, escapist present. 

Now to the "we" part.  This line:

" [...] We
take one another's hands and follow their lead
past the garden wall, out to the land
still stripped by winter"

So there's the play of line breaks (lead / past) which refocuses the poem as the present speaker going back. But I don't know, again, if "we" is more of a physical representation (hand) or a metaphorical one.  In any case, the present speaker and the other is recreating the past by mimicking, "the timbre of the voices," and then the outside influences given special attention and appropriated with the past "sounds of traffic."

And here, the poem brings in this rhetorical question, "Is it the size or the scale of the past / on the small reels of the cassette?"  I'm iffy here at this point.  I was going along with how the poem layers the past and the present as a slim film that's forced upon by the speaker as though the focus shifts to the mind of the speaker rather than the past itself.  The rhetorical question reinforces that idea rather than plays with it.  However, if the rhetorical question was the last line, I think the poem would come off as too artificial when, I think, the speaker is trying to be a bit sincere in trying to reconcile the past and present.

The attention, though, shifts onto gift giving, and how a new pot is then redefined as a treasure which is redefined as currency.  This sequence works better to show the attempt to reconcile the past and present through redefinition (which the speaker has already been doing).

The "currency" turn interests me because of the use of "denominations."  Past me, looked up the term and wrote the three definitions: religious group, destination, one of a series of  kind.  Then this poem turns into more of a spiritual poem (which is hinted with the dichotomy of the present and the past, and with the first sentence).  Wait.  Not turn, adds more of the spiritual into the poem without being too obvious and what's at stake for the speaker...and I still don't know who the other refers to.

Analysis of "The Americans" by Elizabeth Hughey

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Americans" by Elizabeth Hughey
Originally read: February 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Elizabeth Hughey




I think the stream of consciousness technique has it's positives and negatives.  On one hand there's the ability to think and see different connections with things that haven't been thought to connect.  I guess the pop culture equivalent would be the 6 degrees of Bacon, where any actor is connected to Kevin Bacon in one sense or another (I actually wrote that...well then).  The other side is that the connections can be looked at as superficial (see above) or so convoluted that the connections, although linked together, become overly forced and predictable conventions (talking about death of planet, then death of someone, those type of poems).

Now, with this poem, I feel the speaker is playing with this idea -- toying with the positives and negatives of stream-of-consciousness -- not only on the image level, but on the technique level.

Here the title sets up a definition "The" changes the circumstances of "Americans" set us up. There's a specific type of "Americans" that'll be defined here -- not that broad general "we are all Americans."   However, I can see why someone could focus on the "Americans" part -- it's a touchy subject -- and  highly political one too.

I the speaker will goes on with on the extremes with this definition.  But it doesn't start that way there's the connection between life/death and want

"The slippery way of arriving is in one's own departure." ---> "Americans want the door / back open"

So the first line in this sequence is a bit humorous.  I'm trying to think of other ways of reading the first line but I see more of the tactile way of entering the world "birth"  and   "departure" is kind of contextualized with "cold and gin," but I feel the image is so strong that it's just outlandish (one extreme).  Yet, there is a connection between the "Americans want the door / back open."  The line break changes the context to have multiple levels -- wanting to have the door (opportunity) back open (assured opportunity).  This line defines the type of Americans that the poem addresses -- the ones always seeking opportuninty.

"black-walnut New York" --> "girdle of gray seas / tapers the nation" --> "  We are cinched in and ready / to belt out a new anthem" --> "we have 20 ways to sing"

So the connection here is one of color that changes to sound.  The colors start off pretty serious and deep with the "black and gray."  Also the allusion to "New York" in a poem like this refers to 9/11.  Yes, I write this a lot (the allusion to 9/11) and I wonder if there will ever be a time that any contemporary poet can refer to "dark" and "New York" and not have the automatic assumption be 9/11. 

Anyway, the change in the stream is the sonic focus.  New anthem, and sing.  There's a forced change here to find a "new anthem" (not one of those 80's power ballads).  Basically there's a call out for a change.  But here's where I find the technique of the poem talking about the form of stream-of-conciousness:

"[...]Like, I could care. They all sound
 faintly like, I could care.  The way olive juice

may be mistaken for  I love you"

So, ultimately, stream-of-consciousness  (the technique) is based on misinterpretations that sway from the direct point.  And the point of stream-of-consciousness is the misinterpretations, not the point (or at least this is what I read from these lines here).  And look at the range of misinterpretations  "Like, I could care," and "I could care" -- where a single word adds tone.  "Olive juice" and "I love you" -- two different words with different meanings, but sounds similar.

Then there's the Olive juice train of thought being "dirty" "filthy" "salty' and "spilled" which I think is funny not because of the adjectives alone, but also the riff on the not stated "extra virgin" part. 

Oil to "flammable" to the world to the chandeliers dropping to the "generations ago"  which is a stream that I would fit together-- world, generations.  And I think the speaker is sincere here with the connection.

I think when the speaker tries to tie in too much of the previous lines, then the connections feel more like constructions -- where there has to be a reason whey this is connected to this, for example:

"hunched over our desks," --> "stooped over my own desk"
"a wooden planet"  --> "leaf push through black dirt" (overly symbolic)

I'm not sure if this is a riff on the established linking technique or if this is sincere.  I think the ambiguous nature of the sentimentality works against the poem in a way where the connections are overly obscured and the concepts come full front like the end is predictable in a sense.

"there is really no America.  I still can't stand up"

Where the speaker is bound to follow broad generalization because the track was set for generalizations leading to the personal which differs from the more of a observational stream-of-consciousness .  The strongest statement comes from the middle then tapers out in the end.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Analysis of "My Apocalypse" by Rae Armantrout

Original poem reprinted online here: "My Apocalypse" by Rae Armantrout
Originally read: February 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Rae Armantrout






 "My" such a personal word, next to "Apocalypse" which is a bit epic.  However, look at the weight of the words.  "Apocalypse," at least to me, is interesting as a concept, but that's just it -- a concept; meanwhile, the "my" brings in a personal interpretation of the term "Apocalypse."  So there's an expectation set -- well a weird one actually.  Satire, "My Apocalypse is my ipod doesn't work," deeply personal and sincere, "My Apocalypse is <insert excruciatingly painful childhood/teenage/adult/old person experience here (yes, an apocalypse over a lifetime)>"; however, this poem explores the idea of apocalypse on a personal level.

Starting off with the first stanza where a woman from the outside asks about the speaker's own Apocalypse.  I feel the next stanza, "What will you give me / if I tell?" brings in a coyness to the poem in which the speaker not only takes on the authority of the poem through the emotion, but also belittles the term "apocalypse," and disengages any personal or emotional attachment to the word "apocalypse."  But at the cost of  a sense of experience and sincerity.  So the focus of the poem is not how the apocalypse (however defined) effects the speaker, rather how the speaker sees and defines the term apocalypse.

I'm not so sure about the origami part -- reinforcing the folding of the meanings, or perhaps transforming the initial meaning of one thing "money" to something as innocuous as "Art."  It's just a weird image to that doesn't quite fit the poem image wise, but more conceptually.

The next couple of lines mostly deals with Harold Bloom's concept of what's not being states.  The lines talk about a post apocalypse and being in a band (multiple meanings of the word) -- these lines re pretty haunting "We will understand each other / perfectly."  Mostly because of the implication. To ask a over the top question indicates a lack of connection; meanwhile, the speaker intention to understand each other -- perfectly indicates an over the top connection (like in one of those love songs that someone will love you forever and ever and ever...and ever).  So this poem straddles sides, but in a very language and elegent way.

*

Then we get the stanza after the star.  There's another redefinition where "it" a very ambiguous pronoun become defined as nothing so.

"Nothing is alright"
"Nothing doesn't matter."

Once again the language (much like how the this technique works in the other Rae Armantrout poem I analyzed works by redefinition on multiple levels -- "it" as a generic noun, "it" redefined, "nothing" as a concept, "nothing" as a colloquial term (which harkens back to the attempt to be conversational in the first stanza), and "nothing" as a personal insight (speaker defining the terms).

Complex within a short time. 

*

The last stanza is a bit weird to me.  Just like the image of the origami fish, there's an image of a "weathered, fleshy bicyclist.  The dual image works with the type of images employed at the last part -- past me wrote this down:


visual
------
sonic

no meaning in the context of the poem.  Except for gender.  It's kind of cheap though.

Well, present me thinks the image of the visual working together with the sonic brings a certain cynicism.  Like the very distinctive details of "tie-dyed shirt" and the sound "Zoom" represent something.  Maybe the thought of forward thinking in the 60's.

Also I think the "she" in the last stanza doesn't refer to the "woman" in the first stanza.  I feel these two are different entities.  The woman in the first stanza is distant through questions, but the "she" in the last stanza is defined and speaking of the zoom (forward momentum) meanwhile the other image is stagnant.

When I think this way, I feel that the image is a stretch and I'm thinking too much into the poem.  I think the core is the second stanza though.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Analysis of "Holy Sonnet 7" by John Donne

Original poem reprinted online here: "Holy Sonnet 7" by John Donne
Originally read: February 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: John Donne




This wasn't a poem a day.  I wanted to reread this poem in conjunction with the previous poem I analyzed "Tis Late" by April Bernard which alluded to this poem.  I would write about the connection between both.  The allusion to this poem in "Tis Late" comes in the third person part where the previuous script writing graduate student reciting this first line of this poem., "At the round earth's imagined corners, blow."  It might be a jump into the academic intelligence doesn't necessarily bring real world experience.

Rather this poem, goes from epic religious request to a more personal internal strife.  Every four lines in this poem uses different techniques -- and although that would mean different subjects (the usage of a different technique like from first to third, or from narrative to list, or line lengths) usually indicate a volta or a change in direction; however, I feel that  this poem is trying to condense moments to something understandable.

The first four lines have a command tone to them as the speaker telling angels to have the dead rise from their death.  Note with these four lines the usage of adjective noun combinations --   "imagined corners" "numberless infinites" which are very broad but epic general descriptions, there isn't anything specific which goes along with the speaker asking for the "scattered bodies" -- everyone.

What the speaker slightly focuses on (note still going along the lines of the flow of the poem) the varius way people die.  I'll just quote the four lines:

All whom the flood did, and fire shall, o'ethrow
All whom war, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance, hath slain and you whose eyes
Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe.

The first line alludes to the big flood, then the big fire which are general death reasons -- but also the least likely in reality -- the comes this speed of reasons, with each being more possible (even with the general term of "chance" is more likely than a massive flood or fire.    And leads to the dead not actually feeling "death's woe" which is the core of the poem and the true focus of the poem -- everything that has been discussed refers to the feeling about death, death, and how people die.

These thoughts are internalized with the introduction of the I through "my sins." The sins aren't further explained (although there could be assumption of "original sin").  The focus instead is the complete loss of authority with, "'Tis late to ask abundance of thy grace."

And the couplet at the end, the speaker is practically begging -- humbled perhaps, "Teach me how to repent; for that's as good / as if thou'hadst seal'd my pardon with thy blood."  The iambs here is a bit -- well.  This shows the lack of control and authority.  Maybe the speake's "sin" is pride -- wanting too much authority and control.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Analysis of "Tis Late" by April Bernard

Original poem reprinted online here: "Tis Late" by April Bernard
Originally read: February 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: April Bernard




There's a lot of shift and spacing here -- and not visually alone.  The first "section" of the poem is a description of an individual which the speaker takes in and then the poem takes on the persona of the first person.  However, I feel the core of the poem comes in two parts -- kind of like a call and response technique, and I think both happen in the first person perspective part.

Then why bring up the 3rd person part of the poem.  Well, let's look over it.  The description is a woman but one in the past and the "present.."  The present woman is selling carnations she stole from the graveyard with a god bless you, and this a rather interesting decision.  This foreshadows the question sincerity, and not in that pretentious way where some annoying blogger writes, "I think this is overly-sentimental blah blah blah," -- RetailMFA, every blog post.

How the speaker approaches sincerity is to question the situation by showing it clearly without the trims.  A woman is selling stolen carnations -- but doesn't ask for a right or wrong answer and let's the seen unfold with a backdrop.  The woman selling carnations has a background as a graduate student in play-writing, able to recite Donne, and that her experiment, "mixed of / white fizzing democracy / with smokey purple capitalism / has failed."  Now, there should be a part of me that looks up the symbolism for each color and term here, but that's just it.  The terms and images used are about the poem itself, rather the description of the "stringy woman" her beliefs and her experiments.

Another way of looking at the (perhaps over-flowery) description is that this is a projection and judgement from the speaker who, in the next line, states, "We already knew that."  The failure, the fizzing democracy, the purple capitalism -- "we" all know that.  Now here's the shift into the first person where the speaker takes on aspects of the "stringy woman":

1) Madness
2) Selling flowers

Yet what differs from her is, "I will not bless you" and the speaker doesn't have "authentic grief."

Then comes a list of what the speaker doesn't have, but in turn defines the other "the stringy woman" or the people who bless, the people with authentic grief.  The speaker does not have (and in turn the stringy woman has):

1) no spirit of commerce
2) no returning customers
3) does not beg for bread

And here is where I feel the poem is turning cynical and sentimental (yes sentimental).  Here the speaker takes on a preachy role to juxtapose the beggar role.  The speaker preaches about serendipitous circumstances, "another accident."  The repetition of mad where past me states that the tactic "of repition of mad to convey madness is pretty cheap.  So far the poem is pretty cheap in that aspect -- the turn to preach and then attack:

"we were so carefully schooled
in false hope schooled
like the parrot who crooks her tongue
like a dirty finger"

The simile ties in pretty well with the idea of anti-intellectualism, anti-academia rhetoric (a parrot repeats back what is taught, not understand or learn from) also the "false hope schooled" is pretty heavy handed to address the pitfalls of false hope through schooling.

But here, in the last part of the poem, the speaker loses a sense of credibility for me.  Here, the projections actualize into parody with through the techniques used, but that fits well with the poem though.  If the speaker is inauthentic then (cheaply so) the thoughts and in essence the poem could get away with anything; meanwhile, the stringy woman who is authentic doesn't get away from anything, not even projections.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Analysis of "Estrangement" by Paula Bohince

Original poem reprinted online here: "Estrangement" by Paula Bohince
Originally read: February 27, 2013
More information about the Poet: Paula Bohince


After rereading this poem and looking at my notes, I really didn't look up a lot of things that I should've.  The first being the color of flowers or actually remember what they look like.  The second is to reconsider or consider how the word estrangement fits into the poem.  Who is the one alienated?

Well me as a reader in some aspects.  At some points in the poem I felt that I should know the flowers to gain a deeper meaning into the poem ("amaryillis" "juniper" "mint" "jasmine" "oleander)) not only for the shape and smell of each individual plant, but, what makes nature poems hard to do, is what each flowers literary history.  Yes, I know that would be symbols in one aspect, but I feel that images, especially nature images, have multiple contexts when a reader reads into them: literary, scene, place, personal. etc.

And this poem is a bit personal in a sense that I feel the speaker is projecting the thoughts and beliefs about "sweetheart call" onto this scene thereby forcing (or rather proposing) that each image is a symbol for something else.

For example, in the first stanza there's the either/or gambit with the chickadee giving up the sweet hard call to either "embrace eroded against the trellis / of amaryllis" (I think the "the" in line two is a typo...or maybe not) or "lost / in the arbor of grapes clustering / like gossip."

Hmm...breaking from the poem a bit.

Even reading it out loud I didn't catch how wonky the first stanza is set up.  Past tense, present tense (??), past tense.  I thought the "or" lead to what the chickadee should be doing, but the language here is too confusing.  Is the or in the third line referring to the chickadee or the call or what is it referring to.  I'm pretty sure that the "or" in line four refers to the chickadee, but back story =/= what the chickadee should do now.  I don't know how to respond to this. 

So does this mean the chickadee should give up the call or the embrace on the eroded wall (makes sense), and the last...that doesn't make sense because of the tense shift.  Okay I'm focusing too much on this.  I should though.  The first stanza sets up the gambit -- probably what's at stake for the chickadee (symbol, metaphor and "real") -- the options the chickadee has is important.  I guess I'll take about the technique in the second and third stanza because the first stanza is a bit too messed up syntactically for me (and I don't think this poem is meant to be read like a syntactical mess).

So the second stanza brings in a judgement from the speaker "a shame" and the situation of the chickadee -- the voice and body trapped behind oleander, and "clarinet / branches of juniper" which is a good adjective/noun combination because the clarinet describes physically the look of the branches and compliments the sonic image of the call all in the meanwhile juxtaposing a "nature" call with a "man-made sound" -- the combination does a lot of work.

So the observational end of the current scene happens in the beginning of the third stanza, "its hoarse / offer goes unanswered"

However, the final image of the poem is "mint parts / from the jasmine"  A very olfactory image.  Well at least for me.  Mint and jasmine have very distinct smells one overpowering, and one delicate.  And how I prefer to look at the poem.

I can't deny this though.  The actual visual image is heavily implied symbolism "mint parts / from the jasmine,"  like literally the mint is growing away from the jasmine. Not purply, just heavy handed symbols.  When the current action/discussion/focus of the poem ends but the description of the current action doesn't, then there's a lot of weight implied with the final lines.  Like trying to over-represent an idea of something rather than the thing itself.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Analysis of "Base Camp" by Tom Healy

Original poem reprinted online here: "Base Camp" by Tom Healy
Originally read: February 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Tom Healy




Rereading this poem, I wonder who the "we" is referring to.  Yes, another focus on the ambiguous pronoun because the importance of the other shifts throughout the poem.  And yes, this poem is from Poet's.org where the poet talks about something in the poem.  I read it.  Some things make sense, but doesn't change my interpretation of the poem.

I interpret this poem through the technique introduced in the beginning -- very short lines that break up a sentence; yet, the context for the short lines is in the first line "How much oxygen" where the focus is to interpret each line as a breath -- trying to say something important through fragments and leads to a sense of speed and multiple interpretations.

The first rhetorical.uses an either/or strategy where the stronger of the two options will tend to over take the poem.  I think this line "a one-word lie" carries the most weight between the options.  So in the poem I look for how the speaker utilizes the concept of the "one-word lie" further in the poem, and also what is the "one-word lie."  Also the short lines brings a sense of urgency, at least for me, to find the  answer.

But the speaker is not in such a hurry, rather there's the shift of subject to a broader topic of existence (existentialist thought happens mostly on mountains) of animals in this area.  And the speaker tries to describe the environment in the most broad terms, then giving up with "whatever."  This leads to the backtrack to the idea.

"Us"  (compared to existing animals).  I think this word is the one-word lie, or at least applies to this word.  The constant figuring out of "us" because of the next stanza with this line, "is always in doubt."    So there's the sense of the outward going in -- how the speaker is internalizing and redefining the definition of "us" because there isn't the other perspective.  And even though there is no "I" in the poem, the "us" indicates a first person perspective...I think...that was first person. "We" definitely does though.

So from the bottom of the fourth stanza, "Why? Why bother? / Because what is there?"  The rhetorical questions go internal asking the speaker why?  Sounds like an end of a relationship.  Then there's the either/or gambit in the fifth stanza with the idea of "us" in mind "strong or broken" (the most sentimental line in the poem -- or if the poem kept going much further, it could've been more sentimental" with the emphasis on broken.

And in the end there's an image of danger and the after effects, "of sudden stroms, weak / foorholds, frostbite, crevasse, / and black and blue terrain."  The images are a bit hyperbolic, but the images reaffirms where the emphasis of the poem would be through the either/or gambit.  Yeah, I'm going to coin "either/or gambit."

Also, I read this poem multiple times, so it's not much a gambit if I know how it's going to end.


Analysis of "The Objectified Mermaid" by Matthea Harvey

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Objectified Mermaid" by Matthea Harvey
Originally read: February 25, 2013
More information about the Poet:   Matthea Harvey



Have you seen a spork before?  Nonetheless, in a poem?  Yeah, that's a weird way to start this one.  However, when I was reading this the first time, I drew a spork on the page.  I'm not the most versed in prose poetry, so at first I felt something was missing in my initial analysis.

Furthermore, this poem, I think, is the first poem where there is poet comments below.  I tried my best not to look at it, but then read them.  Something about Las Vegas and a still.

Anyway, I'd like to actually start with the last line, "A downward spiral means the opposite up here." is the core of the poem -- not only from an "emotional" standpoint in which the mermaid feels and thinks about -- rather how the lines operate.

For example, the title itself seems self-explanatory, "The Objectified Mermaid."  Well not really.  There's the part of my mind thinking "the" objectified mermaid (or rather the directly objectified mermaid) is objectified how -- as a woman, as a mermaid, as a symbol of a mermaid -- or maybe all three.  The opening title, I feel sets me up to figure how language works where "a downward spiral means the opposite."  Note, I'm not talking about lL=A=N=G=U=A=G=E  poetry where I'm looking for how language undercuts inent (I think this is the main premise behind L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry with my 2 week (equivalent) study of it), rather how the usage single words  ambiguously create different ways of interpreting the line, but not so much that the meaning of a poem changes, but rather adds to the meaning like layers (talking about women as a whole or individual etc.) kind of how the base definition is the curve of a spork and the different interpretations are the prongs of the fork.

Yeah, this is not making sense really fast.

Here's the big thing -- is the mermaid a real mermaid (the poem doesn't break the suspension of disbelief for me)?  Is the mermaid a representation of something else?  Is the mermaid just a woman who wears a suit?  Why am I harping on this?  Well, I find it interesting that the poem never defines the woman (as though not to objectify her as a representation of something) and sticks with a slightly quirky, funny narrative.

Example, "It's gonna be hell getting all that grease of her scales tonight." (emphasis added)

In any case, (or all my interpretations of who the character is), the woman takes in the objectification all on her in sense -- it's her tail, her scales (not a costume in a sense, or a representation) it's a part of her.  However, in my mind, I can't accept that it's all of her.  In multiple ways (no she is a mermaid, wait nos he's a representation, no she's a woman) Which is kind of weird.

This line expands the interpretations, "she imagines her grandmother inspired when she first risked coming ashore"  So there's the immigrant tale, but the pun of ashore doesn't break my suspension disbelief.  I think of the speaker as a mermaid still.

So what does this mean by the end of her photography session -- "she" is being photographed -- the woman, the mermaid, the object, the representation, but in an inelegant and humorous way (not so serious).

Yeah, that extra day of thinking about it didn't help.