Thursday, August 1, 2013

Analysis of "The Old Hauler" by Ryan Dennis

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Old Hauler" by Ryan Dennis
Originally read: March 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ryan Dennis

A third person perspective, but not necessarily narrative.  The focus is the speaker's description and knowledge of "the old hauler."  The real question when I read this poem was where were the hiccups in the poem, places where there's an emotional turn of phrase or idea but then there's the return back to the more objective descriptive tone.

In the first stanza, there's more of a play of sounds than a set-up of definition, "intentions among suggestions / [...] it's a lesson in resignation."  Note how the "-tion" sounds is a risky move here in the poem.  If the rhyme (or over use of internal and end-stopped rhyme) can possibly turn off the reader due to a sing song quality that pertains to generalities of the person.  Also the last line automatically pinpoints "the old hauler" as one of resignation.  When these definitions are solidly in place, there's a sense of "then what?" Or I know where the poem is going, "the definition of resignation" so why should I continue.

I actually thought about this for a while.   There's a big discrepancy between days I posted, for not a good reason at all; however, in that time frame I wondered why I should go back to this poem if the mystery is unraveled in the first stanza (plus in a sing-songy way).  I don't know, but I'll continue to sort through my thoughts about this poem rather than keep my thoughts in my head.

In the second stanza, there's more of a routine description.  Yes, there's discussion of "We send our bull calves in on Thursdays" and "He lets us know if someone has sold out"(this could be a play on "sold out").  The description is too genuine and too straightforward for me to see an undercut to the lines.  Not that there should be an undercut, but the first stanza brings me back to the question of "why" and the directness doesn't make me particularly see anything different than to see the actions of "the old hauler" as one of resignation. 

The signs of resignation continues on to the description of the cattle and, "He once farmed, but the farm is gone." and "he still gets up at four, / because something tells him to."  The description forces the reader to see "the old hauler" as a sympathetic (from genuine reader perspective) or pathetic (cynical reader perspective) character.  This continual reinforcement of familiar, and a bit clilche, description pushes the character into the static -- overly symbolic -- stance.

The fourth stanza has the didactic line of "Once it's in your blood, he says, / you can't get it out."  Usually, I would be all over the usage of the ambiguous pronoun of "it," but, strangely, this little piece is more of  a turn in the poem that interests me.  Since the description and character all lead to the character, the "it" could be assumed as "doing the job" or "he still gets up at four, / because something tells him to."  And, from here, the "blood" line encapsulates the feeling of routine.  But what interests me is that the line refers to the subject and, supposedly, the speaker.  And since I take the poem more on the genuine side (at least right now), the reflective quality of the poem is more generalized -- brings more of a "what then" quality than "why this."

Yet last stanza continues with the previous sentiment of describing the character of the old hauler as a symbol propped up by the speaker, "Every time he leaves I understand our communion better" as thought to state -- yes, Symbol!  But the last lines of the poem is probably the reason why I keep going back to this poem.

"and why he speaks to the bulls / he takes to slaughter."  The very image and pretense of the lines is striking.  Past me writes, "relation to young?  Wanting to be relevant to something.   Wanting to be heard, but not remembered (self) remembered (action)."  And here is where I debate this question.  Is the strength of the last lines enough for me to go through the mostly surface (and sometimes easily connected depth) of the poem?  Well I did, but can't shake the feeling of wasted motion in the poem, as though there's a line between the sympathetic and pathetic which is crossed and I don't know specifically where -- the beginning, the build up, or both?

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