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.

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