Original poem reprinted online here: "Vacant Lot with Pokeweed" by Amy Clampitt
Originally read: March 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Amy Clampitt
The poem is in four cinquains which has the effect of the first half focusing on one aspect, and the second half focusing on the other. The cinquain adds a sense of progression, that there is a middle. Yet, how the poem starts out, there is a focus on one thing -- the pokeweed.
In the first stanza there's focus on description of the vacant lot with adjectives like, "low- / life beach-blond scruff of couch grass." Sonically, the description is terse, and although not separated by periods, they are separated by punctuation like a dash here, or a comma there. I feel the terseness shows a physical representation of the lot not only threw language but by sound as well. At least, at this point, the picture isn't pleasant.
The line that starts off the second stanza, which is the continuation of "interglinting dregs" is "of wholesale upheaval and / dismemberment," I find this line pushing the description too far as though to emphasize that, of course, the vacant lot is meant to be symbolic which I got from the first stanza. The breakaway is interesting where the focus changes from they symbolic to the naming of the actual plants that grow there, "dilanthus" Past me probably looked this up wrong said it was "Ailanthus -- tree of heaven, weed?" I do want to point out that this is me probably overreaching to keep pace with the symbolism -- like I want to know the symbol now so I can move on.
The symbol of the pokeweed pops up in the third stanza and it's more of a stationary image that contrasts the only human figure of the poem, "seed / dropped by some vagrant." Here, the vagrant is an anonymous being; meanwhile, the pokeweed and the dilanthus are named beings. This brings in the idea of the sublime (human actions, although influential, are small in comparison to the awe of nature). Nature in which is described in grandiose terms, "the magenta- / girdered bower, gazebo twirls / of blossom "
The description of the pokewood is more fluid to me. Yes, there are some terse language. I think it's the lack of alliteration or the fact that there's a little more space in between descriptions. In either case, the description and symbol of the pokeweed becomes over inflated to the point of savior who "may salvage from / the season's frittering, / the annual wreckage." And, usually, the overboard symbolism along with an overly symbolic end would be too much -- but here I'm intrigued with the "annual wreckage." Does the "annual wreckage" refer to seasons, or time frame cleaning, or maybe the vagrant and plants who move on from meaning.