Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Analysis of "Tis Late" by April Bernard

Original poem reprinted online here: "Tis Late" by April Bernard
Originally read: February 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: April Bernard




There's a lot of shift and spacing here -- and not visually alone.  The first "section" of the poem is a description of an individual which the speaker takes in and then the poem takes on the persona of the first person.  However, I feel the core of the poem comes in two parts -- kind of like a call and response technique, and I think both happen in the first person perspective part.

Then why bring up the 3rd person part of the poem.  Well, let's look over it.  The description is a woman but one in the past and the "present.."  The present woman is selling carnations she stole from the graveyard with a god bless you, and this a rather interesting decision.  This foreshadows the question sincerity, and not in that pretentious way where some annoying blogger writes, "I think this is overly-sentimental blah blah blah," -- RetailMFA, every blog post.

How the speaker approaches sincerity is to question the situation by showing it clearly without the trims.  A woman is selling stolen carnations -- but doesn't ask for a right or wrong answer and let's the seen unfold with a backdrop.  The woman selling carnations has a background as a graduate student in play-writing, able to recite Donne, and that her experiment, "mixed of / white fizzing democracy / with smokey purple capitalism / has failed."  Now, there should be a part of me that looks up the symbolism for each color and term here, but that's just it.  The terms and images used are about the poem itself, rather the description of the "stringy woman" her beliefs and her experiments.

Another way of looking at the (perhaps over-flowery) description is that this is a projection and judgement from the speaker who, in the next line, states, "We already knew that."  The failure, the fizzing democracy, the purple capitalism -- "we" all know that.  Now here's the shift into the first person where the speaker takes on aspects of the "stringy woman":

1) Madness
2) Selling flowers

Yet what differs from her is, "I will not bless you" and the speaker doesn't have "authentic grief."

Then comes a list of what the speaker doesn't have, but in turn defines the other "the stringy woman" or the people who bless, the people with authentic grief.  The speaker does not have (and in turn the stringy woman has):

1) no spirit of commerce
2) no returning customers
3) does not beg for bread

And here is where I feel the poem is turning cynical and sentimental (yes sentimental).  Here the speaker takes on a preachy role to juxtapose the beggar role.  The speaker preaches about serendipitous circumstances, "another accident."  The repetition of mad where past me states that the tactic "of repition of mad to convey madness is pretty cheap.  So far the poem is pretty cheap in that aspect -- the turn to preach and then attack:

"we were so carefully schooled
in false hope schooled
like the parrot who crooks her tongue
like a dirty finger"

The simile ties in pretty well with the idea of anti-intellectualism, anti-academia rhetoric (a parrot repeats back what is taught, not understand or learn from) also the "false hope schooled" is pretty heavy handed to address the pitfalls of false hope through schooling.

But here, in the last part of the poem, the speaker loses a sense of credibility for me.  Here, the projections actualize into parody with through the techniques used, but that fits well with the poem though.  If the speaker is inauthentic then (cheaply so) the thoughts and in essence the poem could get away with anything; meanwhile, the stringy woman who is authentic doesn't get away from anything, not even projections.


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