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).

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