Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Analysis of "Westman Island" by Rebecca Farivar

Original poem reprinted online here: "Westman Island" by Rebecca Farivar
Originally read: February 22, 2013
More information about the Poet: Rebecca Farivar




The poem works through breaks in the scene.  I wrote on my labels "fourth wall."  I think most poems (and fiction) have to play with the idea of the suspension of disbelief -- that the reader will follow along with the conceit of the poem (or story) until the end and gain something from the reading experience.

So the lines that does creates this break, "Let me be clear / this is not a dream" initiates a sort of dilemma. 1) Should I take what the speaker says as the "truth" -- or the set up of a the unreliable narrator.  2) Why break the forth wall to confirm the poem is not a dream?

I guess the answer to number 2 is that there should be a visceral sense about killing puffins or to let the reader know that the technique to killing puffins is real.

Or maybe, rather than being emotionally vested in the poem, the poem should be read as an instructional account about the situation (note: not a instruction poem).  The poem is purely about "real" experience, rather than "made up" experience.

So what is real?
The speaker has a net.
The speaker knows there's no better way to hunt puffins.
The speaker states that if the puffin has a fish in it's mouth then it's safe
The speaker states the way to catch a puffin is to wait for them to fly into shore.
The speaker catches a puffin (empty beaked), and breaks his neck.
The speaker could do this all day.

This is the main actions of the poem (also note that the difference between an empty beaked puffin and a not so empty beaked one -- death.

Lastly, I want to point out these lines which break from the instructional aspect of the poem:

"Here comes
one with nothing"

"Everyone wants
to make a mark
when they're new
and it's annoying
to us who are not new"

So in the instructional, directional mode, there's always the attempt to be didactic (if not then this would be a manual not a poem).  What the didactic part of this poem shows is a disparity -- nothing and everything.  It's kind of cliche in the sense that it's easy to diffuse big theoretical concepts with the absurd -- what pulls me through the poem is the interest in the directions, and not the lines I put above.

If I took those lines out, I don't know if I'd miss them.  Maybe I would.  But as of right now, the lines just add a faux philosophy that buffers the strength of the dream line.

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