Thursday, June 6, 2013

Analysis of "A Moment" by Philip Schultz

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Moment" by Philip Schultz
Originally read: February 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Philip Schultz






So past me isn't too nice about this poem.  Past me wrote notes like, "overly sincere and sentimental" with a whole bunch of arrows pointing to it.  Also notes like, "too predictable and overboard sentimental" with the final lines of the poem.

I don't think this is a bad poem though.  

It's kind of weird to write after rereading the poem a couple of times and trying to figure out the poem and what past me wrote about the poem.  

To start, I should write this is a definition poem.  Past me wrote, "each sentence works as a definition" for "A Moment."  The speaker has the opportunity to recalibrate the definition through many different proofs and situations.  I think my disappointment comes with the  overuse of generalizations that turns the definitions into glib philosophies that come off a little sentimental to me.

I go back to the first sentence of the poem though:

"A measurement of time
in which dogs live 
without regret
or desire to enhance 
their reputation
and personal worth."

This is where I'm most vested in the poem -- the short lines really do bring out the quality of "a moment" -- brief snippets of something.  And I also think breaking up a rhetorical sentences to smaller parts just asks for misinterpretations, misreadings, re-readings, and multiple interpretations on the same rhetoric.

Also the first sentence  has two features which interests me.  The mention of dogs at the start introduces character -- other characters who see a moment differently and not the speakers perspective -- there'd be another layer in which all the ideas compare and contrast to one another in a short time span.  The other being the conjunction "or" which does separate the ideas of  without regret and desire within the sentence, but the weight of the description would show where the speakers attention would be.  Example, since the weight is more on desire, then, for me as a reader, there'd be something more about desire or less about desire and have the idea of "without regret" come out further in the poem.

So the first sentence introduces a lot of interesting technique, but it's unfulfilled further on with lines like.

"A request for calm
and further reflection."

"A stall for time
in order to regain
one's reasonableness"

"A ubiquitous cave 
of sanity."

The cave one isn't too bad, but the others (just a sampling) is like a quote from a self-help book.  I would understand if the speaker cut and paste self help quotes to make a poem, but wouldn't that undercut the message of the poem -- a sort of deconstruction of a moment (maybe that's what I was looking for now that I think about it).

I think the last lines are too predictable no matter how I reread it.  The singular lines to emphasize a moment adds force to the poem, but it's overly intended force -- as though the speaker has to make a point.  And here it is.

"A plea to begin over again."

So this last line does contrast the "without regret" line in the beginning.  But the speaker's judgement in a definition poem is what is most looked for (crap I don't have an example poem).  Or rather, it's what I look for -- why is the speaker defining the term? what stake does the speaker have?  And the sentiment of the last line is expected.  I'd rather have the last line in the beginning and the first sentence for the last lines.  Get the judgement out of the way and focus on what a moment means.


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