Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Analysis of "They Promised Me A Thousand Years of Peace" by Lauren Shapiro

Original poem reprinted online here: "They Promised Me A Thousand Years of Peace" by Lauren Shapiro
Originally read: February 23, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lauren Shapiro







As I was going over my notes, I noticed that I didn't reference the title how I usually would.  I do reference the title though as maybe alluding to something religious.  However, I don't reference who the "they" are or actually wonder who "they" represent.  Instead, past me focused on the "core" of the poem which is "defining nothing and the act of riddance."  I think past me came up with this conclusion through the last line of the poem, "See, you trip on yourself an exact number of times / each day, but who else is counting?" which I refer to as the "'crux is else' antagonizing the 'you' that believes."

I can see the points, however,  after rereading this poem, I think math plays a big part in this poem.  Then I wonder why didn't I pick up on the math idea before.  First, a list of lines that refer to math (or mathematical concepts:

"Getting rid of nothing / is like blblical work."
"Getting back to zero is awesome / if you're coming from negative numbers"
"on our way to the A and B team locker rooms."
"See, you trip on yourself an exact number of times / each day but who else is counting?"

The list of lines is in chronological order, and so if looked about in order there's a lot of redefinition of the idea of nothing (as previous me stated), but it's not the "act of riddance" which I'm looking at now.  I'm looking at how the concept of zero or nothing is redefine and then let go.

The first of the quotes adds a sense of the epicness of creating something because the "person" is getting rid of nothing.  Starting from nothing to being something.

The second of the quotes makes brings a value judgement to the poem in which gaining from negative is admirable (levels of difficulty is established)

But in the last quote the speaker dismisses these actions with "who else is counting"  Yes, I have quoted the lines twice, but in this context, the speaker undercuts him/herself from using math to evaluate situations with the use of whimsy.  Maybe undercut is a loaded word.  More of dismissive humor.

Dismissive humor from what?  Now it's time to go to the tone of the poem.  So at first, I thought this poem like every poem I've seen recently. 

Very surreal and visceral images that tie together with a stream-of-consciousness lines or absurdest lines (interchangeable) then the allusion to one of the following things (or all): a) school, b) religion, or c) government -- not in a serious way, in a faux dead metaphor ironic way -- then end with something that diffuses expectation in a not so anti-climatic way as more as a anti-hero way due to one (or all) of the reasons above.

Not that this is a bad thing.  I think the most well rendered lines in this poem are created from the viceral images and tone like, "Hey Porky, I"m crushing your tiny love-note / with my stiletto! Yeah, yeah, it's all about / perspective" which in turn follows through with this stream-of-consciousness lines, "They way I feel about mathematics bespeaks a love / of theory in which the proposition never / leads to the conclusion"  The transition of tone -- visceral to scientific leads to the conflicting addressing non-effacing anti-heroic lines at the end.

I also thought this line sets up an abusrdist yet personal tone near the end quite nicely, "I unpeel the banana / and find a gap-toothed man hungry as hell. / Is it okay to eat the peel? He asks." The aside is pretty out there in the poem (if there's an attempt to tie in the images), the question (like the question at the end) from the hungry man is disarming and ambiguous -- note, he doesn't ask if he can eat the peel -- the skin, he asks if "it is okay to eat" and, yes, there could be the assumption that he is asking to eat the peel based on the fact he is hungry -- but maybe he's also asking if "it is okay" or evaluating the situation to make right or wrong decisions -- or both. 

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