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. 

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