Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Analysis of "Butterfly with Parachute" by Stephen Burt

Original poem reprinted online here: "Butterfly with Parachute" by Stephen Burt
Originally read: March 29, 2013
More information about the Poet: Stephen Burt






I keep going back in my head about why I chose this poem.  Yes, I look at my notes and past me wrote things like, "Description of drawing based on food, a bit child-like, young, innocent."  This type of description does go along with the context of the poem.  However, the poem doesn't hold up for me the second read through.

Saccharine comes to mind after I reread this poem.

Anyway, the parallel structure of the poem is heavily implied.  "Butterfly with Parachute" should go line by line with "A real one wouldn't need one,"  I point this out since the structure is parallel, then the way the poem is read has to be in that parallel structure.  "A real <parachute> wouldn't need <butterfly>."  So, from here the focus will be the butterfly and why this particular butterfly needs a parachute.

"but the one Nathan draws surely does:"  Here there's a specific name that brings a sense of the personal in the poem.  Note, not confessional.  The speaker is making observations of the creation of the "Nathan" (relation not explained as of yet).  I think this is where current me focused on naming and thought -- well this is going to be "cute"; meanwhile,  past me was focus on the description (see above).

Now the description relies on taste and visual orientation "green apple, toasted coconut, and grape,"  which past me calls "child-like, young, and innocent," and then current me gets to this description, "billowing valentine hearts."  The taste and visual imagery teeters the scene to child-like, the "billowing hearts" just makes the poem too cute -- too like I have to say "awww" to the poem because, clearly, the poem is about the child's creation, and not the recreation of the speaker in order to bring an elliptical epiphany about life at the end...wait?

Any way, there's the reason of why this particular butterfly has a parachute, "Alive. it could stay off the floor / for a few unaerodynamic minutes; / thrown as a paper airplane, for a few more."  The transformation of static (drawing) to dynamic (flying) brings movement to the poem, and the adjective/noun combination of "unaerodynamic minutes" sets up an interesting metaphor to go forward with.

But then we get the perspective of the "father," in stanza 2 "Very sensibly, therefore, / our son gave it something, not to keep it apart / from the ground forever, but rather to make safe its decent."  Past me wrote "Son created the parachute."  But current me can't hep but see that the speaker is trying to impose definition and meaning onto the actions here -- his son did this for a reason, while the previous stanza relied on images to get that idea across.

And since the father is introduced with a judgement call, here we go with the epiphany:

When we ask that imagination discover the limits
of the real
world only slowly,
maybe this is what we meant.

Past me wrote, "Summary, but necessary interpreting a child's action for the imaginatory -- who does the 'we' refer to?"  Yes, past me, I understand the need to understand imagery, but to point out the meaning so harshly with an epiphany like this while using a "we" -- it's saccharine.  Okay so we could learn from the actions of a child -- looking at the world and creating slowly to figure out imagination.  Well, great.  Prophetic at the end with the sacrifice of the image in the beginning; vivid imagery in the beginning that is disregarded for the end.

First read through, yeah I can agree that the structure and the imagery are well rendered, and I could forgive the epiphany.  The second time through...not so much.

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