Monday, September 30, 2013

Analysis of "Ms. and Super Pac-Man" by B.J. Best

Original poem reprinted online here: "Ms. and Super Pac-Man" by B.J. Best
Originally read: April 29, 2013
More information about the Poet:  B.J. Best





The indents reinforce the narrative.  This is the first thing I thought of after rereading this poem again.  As I tried to decipher the multitude of poetic techniques in "For Love" for a couple of days, and then going to this poem.  Well, I like this better as a flash fiction piece.

I know that I bring a huge bias, but well -- the indents reinforce the narrative.  The piece is broken down into paragraphs not stanzas, and flow of the piece connects in sequential order: time and other.

Let's start with "other" first.  The poem starts in the beginning, the meeting of "Ms. Pac-Man" and "Mr. Pac-Man."  Note the use of "Super Pac-man" in the title because of a multitude of reasons: foreshadowing device, investment in the relationship, to lull the reader into thinking the piece focuses mainly on a humorous allusion.

But isn't it the case in the first stanza -- the description are a bit surreal and funny.  They meet at "Overeaters Anonymous."  She liked his "muscular mouth."  They wanted a baby which is described as "a lemon growing from the size of a dot in her womb."  All this description turns back to the video game and appears "cute" -- reference for reference sake.

Yet in the second paragraph the, "Slowly" forcefully indicates a turn.  The use of the transition word will tun the initial tone and it does.  "He relapsed, guzzling donuts while she was at work,"  "he longed to lift the hem of another's orange dress."   The adoration tone turns into disillusionment, the images transition into a more serious manner -- relapsed, and lift the hem of another's orange dress.  Also this is the point where the transition from the caricature turns into character.

The last paragraph the last attempt and the perhaps goodbye.  Yes there's a list of new things (technology, relationship -- whatever you want to choose) like "maybe ecstasy, flirting with the waiter" all the images push away from the humorous allusion.  This line goes back to the allusion though but not in a serious way, "She began with cigarettes, a cloud of coughs ghosting through the room." 

 Yes the allusion is to the ghosts of the game, but also the ghosts of the past or presumed future.  I'm iffy on the line because the idea of ghosts of past and presumed future are a bit cliche.  But I think the use of allusion in this line creates something interesting.  The last line feels like a big push though.

The big push to reinforce the "Super Pac-Man." "He stood outside, contemplating the maze of sidewalks, wearing his coat like a cape in the rain."  The maze line seems more forced because of the usage and the timing.  I feel the tie of the allusion and the image would be better spread out rather than one after another since the complexity of the technique.  One against the other buffers the strength of the line since they don't, perhaps, draw off each other -- the two lines are individually focused.

Also "Super Pac-Man" with "his coat like a cape in the rain" the image feels forced to fit the title, but the idea is interesting.  The idea that the man looks at himself as the hero regardless of action -- leaving, wanting to try new things, wanting to life another hem.  This connection is a little weak (if this is the connection) to me where the analogy is stronger.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Analysis of "For Love" By Robert Creeley

Original poem reprinted online here: "For Love" By Robert Creeley
Originally read: April 28, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Robert Creeley







This poem.  This poem in particular is very tough to analyze for me.  There's a lot of techniques like: ambiguous pronouns, syntax, misdirection, rhetorical reasonings and questions, time shifts, tone shifts, precise images, high conceptual language, etc. that it's hard for me to pin down because I want to write about everything.  But I need to get this done for my own sanity and moving forward.  .

So the poem is one of the first well known poems of Robert Creeley which has a lot of influence in minimalism, which, in theory, doesn't give superfluous details and goes to the core right away.  So when I read these quatrains and saw the restrictions, I thought to myself how controlled and precise the poem should be.

This is the wrong way to look at the poem after reading this several times.  The quatrains doesn't serve to contain the poem, rather, the quatrains serve as a road to stream-of-consciousness thought where the reader sees the speaker muse over love and go back and forth.

However, the back and forth doesn't occur precisely.  In the first  four stanzas, the subject is referred to as "it" : "Yesterday I wanted to / speak of it," "I know derives from / what it teaches me,"  " what is it that / is finally so helpless" "despairs of its own statement"  Note how the speaker doesn't speak of "it" and rather places "it" as a personified concept that the speaker wants to speak of/learns from/observes/ and watches fall.

Yet, when the concept tries to turn to an image, "If the moon did not ... / no if you did not."  The specific image turns into a concept of "you."  the assumption here is that of "Bobbie" but not necessarily.  Also in this stanza not that the movement s are parallel in other ways as well: turning the precise in to concept, following the same negation "if you did not / I wouldn't either" which goes forward and back, "That is love yesterday / or tomorrow, not / now"

So here is what interests me on about the line I quote d above, "now" is in the the present tense, but also the poem is in the present tense.  The conception construction (as past me calls it) only happens in the now but can be names as a form of nostalgia (past) or a desire (future) -- now is unclear.

I feel this line, "Now love also / becomes a reward / so remote from me I have / only made it with my mind"  brings not only various levels of self references, but also plays with the idea of "now" turning inward as a mental state.  Now eventually becomes thought out and either becomes the past (remote from me) or the future (reward) but not now...now.  I'm worried this will get too convoluted, so I'll just leave this here and move on.

There's some powerful rhetoric against image, "But that image / is only of the mind's / vague structure." The irony of this line is that the poem is restructuring the image of "love" -- giving love a form (quatrains) to run straight to, personification to make love vivid but the things that are missing are tangible.  Actions aren't necessarily visible, "vague to me / because it is my own."

After this line the speaker addresses love directly, "Love, what do I think / to say I cannot say it."  Past me wrote down, "trying to take the conceptual to the image -- which turns surreal."  The images to me at this half way mark are domestic and trivial at first, "crossed legs with skirt," and (due to the either/or proposition) the statement after the or will be further examined in the rest of the stanzas, "or / soft body under / the bones of the bed."  A very surreal and gothic image, after reading this line a few times, the line because more of a joke than something serious.  The image is indeed serious, but in the context of the poem it's more of the mind not being to comprehend the physicality of love and going "bare."

"Goes back to the conceptual but to the idea of the remote again"  I write this when the speaker states, "Nothing says anything / but that which it wishes / would come true."  Once again this circular logic of trying to define the undefinable.

Until this line, "but the obsession I begin with now."  This line is the second time the poem addresses the now and one of the qualities of "now" is obsession.  This perpetual though of trying to define the past or future in accordance of what love is.  Then there's the line which is syntactically interesting "also (also).  Past me wrote the second also is litotes because of the parentheses; however, the litotes softens the movements -- this also slows down the poem and the focus is on the "beyond" which "it all returns."

Note the ambiguous pronoun "it" returns to the last line signifying this cycle of trying to define the past and the future will continue -- so what is the understanding from the poem -- the cycle (not necessarily the process), and terms almost defined.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Analysis of "Poetry" by Alfred Kreymborg

Original poem reprinted online here: "Poetry" by Alfred Kreymborg
Originally read: April 27, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Alfred Kreymborg







This is an funny and odd definition poem about Poetry.  This isn't ars poetica in a sense that this is the speakers definition of poetry, rather this is the speaker observing a critics interpretation of poetry and then critiquing the critic.  Convoluted, yes.  That's just me.

So the first line introduces the critic and the description is humorous.  Ladislaw is his name and:

     five feet six inches high,
     which means
     that his eyes
     are five feet two inches
     from the ground.

The humor comes from the perspective.  Also the note that the value of "Poetry" will be decided with eyes, body language, physical response to poetry.  There's three levels here.

First if "his eyes lift to five feet / and a trifle more than two inches, what you have done / is Poetry --"  Humorous because of the specificity of the  the look, and how the look should be interpreted.  Eyes up. Poetry.

Second,"Should his eyes remain / at five feet two inches, / you have perpetuated prose,"  is more of a neutral stance.  However, the word "perpetuated prose" brings humor as though there's an implied misdeed in writing prose.

I want to focus on the last criteria point, yes the eyes go downward, but "you / are an unspeakable adjective."  A couple of things with this last part.  First, the focus is on the "you" rather than what the "you" creates -- poem, or prose (unfortunately according to the poem).  Also, I'm more interested in the idea of "unspeakable adjective."

The subject/noun combination brings in the idea of the taboo and the mysterious.  And by doing so creates a stratification (which, is again, solidified with the whole eye level metaphor) that makes me want to know more about the taboo language rather than what is poetry.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Analysis of "Tour" by Carol Snow

Original poem reprinted online here: "Tour" by Carol Snow
Originally read: April 26, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Carol Snow






There's a lot of good interpretations of this short poem online.  Most of the interpretations revolve on how the speaker shows a different perspective of the scene.  Yes, and well no.  Yes, the speaker does show a different meaning to the same scene, but there's something a bit off on the lines.


I think the first is the "he" in the first stanza is a representation of a monk.  Even I was like "he = monk?"  and there's the play of assumptions.  I don't know who he is.  I know the actions that he is doing -- well no I don't.


The first stanza is pure description.  "Near a shrine in Japan he'd swept the path / and then placed camellia blossoms there."  This is the construction of something beautiful.  Past me wrote for this stanza, "What does it mean to place fallen camellias purposely on the path -- commercial -- recreation of a scene of beauty?"  It's up to the readers interpretation to figure out the actions.

Yet, in the second stanza the fourth wall is a little bit broken.  First with the introduction of the first person.  The change of perspective brings up an interesting question to this line, "Or -- we had now way of knowing --" then how do you people know.  Note, the combined first person figured this out, not the individual.  Second, the poem goes into an assumed either/or scenario where either the actions of the first stanza happened (which didn't according to the speaker) or the second stanza occurred.

So what does this set-up?  Not necessarily an unreliable narrator, rather the question of why to change the point of view to the first.  The poem could've been focused mainly on the "he" but with the "we."  Past me wrote, "What does it mean to sweep and place camellias -- respect, beauty?"

Why the forced perspective?  So, yeah the poem is about perspective, but why impose the speakers perspective over what they actually saw?  Just questions.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Analysis of "Poem" by Frank O'Hara

Original poem reprinted online here: "Poem" by Frank O'Hara
Originally read: April 26, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Frank O'Hara







I don't know if I could take this as a riff of a love poem, or as an awkward interesting love poem.  Actually, I don't know if I could take this as a love poem at all.  The drop down line isn't as angular as it could be, nor is the subject matter specific.  The poem is the line that straddles -- well -- any sort of connection and association to the poem.

So here's a cute line, "if it rains hard /on our toes."  And I mean cute in the most saccharine sense.  There's the pastoral love going on -- walking, oh it's raining -- but it's on  our feet, how interesting.    But I take this as sincere, not so much as a riff.  Yes, I might be bias against the line, but the focus on how the line is read.

In the second stanza, the description of the walk is a bit humorous with the focus on the we strolling like "poodles" then take a more physical absurdity of "be washed down a / gigantic scenic gutter."  Humorous and I think the stanza pokes fun of the idea of the scene interpreting the relationship i.e. birds in the sky singing -- then it's love.  The drop off line "that will be" is more of a reminder that this is more of a want sequence than a past lament or a present mistake.

The third stanza -- my focus went straight to the drop line of "maybe blood"  and I'm like, wait what.  Where does blood come into this.  Yes humorous, but the blood line is just, I don't know how it fits.  Especially in the context of the sentence, "Voyages are not / all like this you just put / your toes together"  yeah.

Furthermore, what makes the "blood" line so strange is that the metaphor continues with the hopes the blood gain "meaning."  Then the poem continues with, "and a trick / become slight in our keeping"  I'm confuses I guess, in context, these lines are a far departure from the riff on scenery; rather, they are more, well, like pirates?   No seriously, pirates.  Or something weird.  "Escaping from a dangerous situation?  Unwanted situation?  I was hoping time would clarify what I thought...no not really.

The last stanza focusing on the landscape and the sentiment of "we look back at each other / anxiously" fits with the idea the previous lines go along a surreal dangerous situation, and a previous cliche get together.  But I feel the blood metaphor is so out there and so strong that my mind tries to figure out what "blood" means.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Analysis of "Advice from the Experts" by Bill Knott

Original poem reprinted online here: "Advice from the Experts" by Bill Knott
Originally read: April 25, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Bill Knott



Perspective and expectation.  Already from the title, the focus is on the "experts," but the perspective and expectation change with each line.

"I lay down in the empty street and parked"  here the perspective is from the speaker but note how simple the line is.  If it wasn't for the verb "lay" the sentence is as innocuous as an everyday conversation.  But since the speaker is laying down in (not "on") the street, the verb already sets up a difference in levels.

"My feet against the gutter's curb while from"  This is more of a direct visual cue.  Duh, right?  The set up though doesn't create  a sense of symbolic urgency for me though.  Yes, a person laying down in the street with a feet against the gutter isn't normal, but it isn't the focus.  My focus is where the speaker is looking and what perspective the speaker has.

"The building above a bunch of gawkers perched"  The reverse of the situation starts here with the words, "above," "gawkers" and "perched."  Of course the terms refer more to a spectacle of a jumper and the roles are reversed her, but this is what the speaker is seeing.  It's a sort of unity based on perspective.  The speaker and the gawkers are perched on something.

"Along its ledges urged me don't, don't jump."  Now this is the line that brings a sense of humor to the poem because of the expectation.  It's kind of silly for the ones perched above to say not to jump while the speaker is just lying down on the ground.

But then I thought more about how perspective works in the poem.  The speaker is the only being static actions laying down, and more importantly, observing.  Meanwhile, the gawkers are more dynamic, they actually say something like don't jump.   What does this mean?  Nothing much I suppose.  Who is the focus?  The speaker.  Who is the experts?  The gawkers (plural, and saying something.  The advice is to the speaker -- but what are the consequences of jumping when gravity already lays you down?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Analysis of "Brief Study of Parades" by Jill Osier

Original poem reprinted online here: "Brief Study of Parades" by Jill Osier
Originally read: April 225, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Jill Osier






*Perspective
*Observation
*Bias

That's what I looked for when I read this poem.  And since the poem is in list format, there is an imposed sequence (just like a parade) which may or may not mean something.  Why the "or"?  The poem straddles the line  between meaning something and just being observant (no meaning imposed on the observation).

The first three on the list I labeled, "Parade perspective" or the perspective of the ones putting on the show.  For example, "1) There must be lifting"  could refer to the physical construction, or the line can open up this to a more spiritual level by the term "lift."  Yeah, the second perspective
is out there, but the ambiguous of the term open up a lot of interpretations.

"2) There must be so many shoes" -- past me wrote, "marches or audience"  or in this case an indicator of a lot of people.  What is interesting about this line if this is an indicator, the external is considered as a person than who they are (which will come back on the bottom half of the list).

"3) Acknowledge this!  Acknowledge this with music!"  I think this is the line that made me want to look at this poem again.  Past me wrote, "self-referential, shift to the audience perspective"  When, now, I feel this is an interpretation (with a sprinkle of humor) of the basis of parades.  Also this is the line where the observation teeters to judgement.

"4) We clap, we speak in waves, we remember the curb."  Note how the audio imagery link together here "music" and "clap" and then "waves" becomes a bit surreal, then "curb" gives a concrete image.

"5) We are a terrible speed."  Past me wrote here "commentary" -- and since this is the first time the poem uses an adjective it stands out.  And so "terrible" feels like a loaded word and could appear to be commentary -- any other way of looking at the adjective is washed away then.  "Terrible" serves as a word that means something, but in the context of the line, is confusing because what does the adjective actually clarify, "speed"?  past me wrote, "too fast, too slow," what is it?  Loaded word that fizzes out -- a dead metaphor in as sense.

"6) We are the only people we've been trying to be."  Past me wrote, "parade for spectacle / parade for showing awareness or recognition."    The comparison isn't there, only the sentiment.  And perhaps the parade is an an overblown expression of beliefs, but since the terms are so ambiguous there's really no direction in a forced direction poem.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Analysis of "Seance" by Edouard Roditi

Original poem reprinted online here: "Seance" by Edouard Roditi
Originally read: April 24, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Edouard Roditi


This piece reads like an opening to a mystery novel, and I'm probably going to have a hard time proving that this is a "poem" and not a "blurb from a mystery novel"  so I'll concede defeat and state that this may not be a poem, but this is interesting writing to me.

Why?  For something to be written in this prosaic, narrative style, the piece plays on the idea of focus.  Just from the title itself, "Seance" there's an expectation of the "supernatural" and "mysterious." 

The focus though is the one, supposedly, doing the seance, and of course the stranger is mysterious, but then there's the two men who sit at the table and talk about travel.  The stranger, awkwardly and like a creeper joins the conversation forcing the focus back to him.

Now I just noted the first half of the plot -- but the focus, no matter what direction, is being forced on the mysterious which serves as a foreshadow later on in the piece which is further punctuated by the description of a sound from the corners, "sound as of very swift wings, a muttering of motors, and chattering of thin voices."  The description and the usage of the simile seems unfocused, but at the very core, I guess the main question is how to deal or what is mysterious

For example, when the stranger disappears, note that his disembodied voice takes a comparative stance since they both go and/or originate in the cornor of the room.

The last line of the poem, "Where the stranger stood the two men find a railway ticket to an unknown destination" brings the mystery to full circle -- it's a start of something, but the over-analytical past me wrote, "stranger = manifest destiny."  Current me doesn't think this poem is that deep, or creative in it's approach.  Just interesting.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Analysis of "Five Ways to Kill a Man" by Edwin Brock

Original poem reprinted online here: "Five Ways to Kill a Man" by Edwin Brock
Originally read: April 23, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Edwin Brock






"Humorous -- reads like a recipe.  The list goes more absurd then the last being poignant"  This is how past me starts out, but there's the interplay of the humor which slightly turn cynical, but the focus is always a man in war which can branch off to society or ethics or what not -- no the indivudal -- the five ways to kill a man happens with each stanza.

In the first stanza there's an allusion to crucifixion with the lines, "You can make him carry a plank of wood / to the top of a hill and nail him to it." And here is more of the "result" lines, here's the recipe, "you require a crowd of people / wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar, and one / man to hammer the nails home."  Note how this list is expansive at first then goes down to the individual.  Also note that the reason I think there is humor here is the structure and not necessarily the content.  "one /man to hammer the nails home" has more of a cynical approach.

I remember when I first read this poem that teach stanza had an allusion and I didn't know where each one went.  I did look it up and found the answers here at Bytes Daily.  Are the allusions to the times important to this poem.  Yes, actually, because the speaker is commenting on both the history as a thought of the past, and the actual actions that took place. 

The second stanza is based on the War of Roses, and there's a medieval feel to how the person dies, "attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears" also note that the ambiguous creates openings for different ideas of interpretation -- physical cage, mental cage, spiritual cage.  Also in this stanza the specificity of "English" trees brings more a political slant, along with the whole, " a prince, and a  / castle to hold your banquet in."  My automatic response of why a prince is not a man -- well -- for the time frame, they were above man with their "nobility" -- the the actuality killing versus the romanticized version of killing.

The romantic, if it wasn't before, is thrown out quite frankly with, "Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind / allows blow gas at him."   Yes, there's a lot of gas allusions and war, but this one, I believe refers to World War I because of the gas goes through, "ditches."  But before I go further, I want to write about the "you" the speaker is referring to.  I think he's talking about the ubiquitous concept of death and killing, and partially to the audience as though giving a sardonic lecture about death.  And here's what you need to kill this man in this time frame "more mud, a plague of rates, a dozen songs / and some round hats made of steel."  The ambitiousness of songs interests me because they could be "propaganda songs" or "eulogy" or "anti-war" -- any style and I think they'd fit in context.

The fourth stanza focuses on on World War II and focuses on the idea of "small switch"" as in a small thing that has great impact -- look how expansive the list gets from "an ocean to separate you," to a "psychopath" and lastly a very visceral line that combines the two ideas -- "land that no-one needs for several years."

With the progression of time, there's the expectation of the speaker talk about the present.  And how the form works, the length of the last stanza, to me, works the same way as the last two lines of an Elizabethan sonnet that there will be great change in something because of the length of the stanza (4 lines) and the progression of the poem. 

And the first change is the speaker is self-referential and more judgmental, "These are, as I began, cumbersome ways  / to kill a man"  also the humor slightly comes back due to the brevity and language, "Simpler, direct, and much more neat."

Then the last two lines, "is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle / of the twentieth century, and leave him there."  There's a sense of the "Unknown Citizen" here but with a broader application.  Note how the man is left behind as though he is forgotten, but it's not his existence that is forgotten rather the circumstances to learn from (and then forget).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Analysis of "For Louis Pasteur" by Edgar Bowers

Original poem reprinted online here: "For Louis Pasteur" by Edgar Bowers
Originally read: April 22, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Edgar Bowers






So the version I have is from "Poemhunter" which I cannot find online now.  When I searched for another version of this poem, I found that there's a line missing in the beginning, "Who is Apollo?' College student" which serves as an epigraph to the poem.  This is vastly important because the first line of the poem, "How shall a generation know its story / If it will know no other" refers to the anonymous college student -- the one who should learn and/or know the history of others.  How important is the epigraph to the poem.  It's not the core, but the quote sets up how the poem is read -- with intense allusions, and images, and anger, and history, and a bit more anger.

Like the allusion to Louis Pasteur.  There's a sense of anger because the speaker has to explain and correlate Apollo, myth, and history to a creative writer -- there's a sense of distance there as well, for example look at these similes:

   His mind was like Odysseus and Plato
   Exlploring a new cosmos in the old
   As if he wrote a poem--his enemy
   Suffering, disease, and death the battleground
   His introspection.

The first simile addresses the whole "Who is Apollo?" question in a snarky way.  The speaker goes off on mythological allusions as if he's showing the student how to integrate the myth and person to further define a person.  Also by using a simile to compare Pastuer's exploration of medicine to the writing of a poem -- both take on each others attributes through context.  But the quotations from Pasteur changes the direction of the poem.

The quote turn from science and peace to something more violent "''Death to the Prussian!' and 'revenge, revenge'"  Note also before the quote there's the cheeky, "But then, the virus mutant in his vein"  The virus is set up as an ironic allegory -- the very thing that Pasteur worked for, immunization, shifts and changes Pasteur's opinion because of war.

I feel like I'm only scratching the surface with stanza 1 because there's so many complexities and shifts, and so little time on my part.  But note that all the complexities and shifts leads to this rhetorical question that goes back to epigraph above.

"How shall my generation tell its story"  This is a very ambitious question based on the question in the epigraph -- if the generation before doesn't even know Apollo how would they tell our stories.  Now the following sequence is a long narrative that has angular line breaks and shifting content that I won't be able to look for everything but here's a couple things I noted:


  1. The list of specific names brings a sense of the personal to the speaker as though to humanize the other.  "George Humphreys," "Clark Harrison," "Herr Wagner," "Gerd Radomski" are all actual people.  Yet, the way the speaker approaches these people as real with memories that are so localized that the use of allusion becomes tighter with the reference to Pasteur lost in the whole second stanza.
  2. The adjective noun combinations work to further personalize and centralize the focus to the speaker's experience:  greener surfs or rumored France"  "Cynical Constantines" (which maybe be an actual group) "Hürtgen dark"  notice how the adjectives add more to the nouns and shifts the tone from hope, despair, or failure depending on whose story the speaker is talking about.
  3. The personal turns to the allusive later on in the second stanza, but what impact does the allusion have but superficial?  "Strangeloves," "Son of Mars" and the eventual return of the narrative of Pasteur who lost his own son to the war -- these allusions, to me, are completely overshadowed by the person,  and the allusion, no matter how detailed and painful, serve mostly as a transition to the third stanza.
 The beginning of the third stanza starts, "I like to think of Pasteur in Elysium" and here is the combination of the speaker and his thoughts on Pasteur as the first two stanzas worked more as separate entities -- the allusion (other) versus the allusion (person) which transitioned through the allusion (other) of Pasteur and now we get to the personal.

And what the speaker imagines is the pre-war Pasteur.  Just like the speakers comrades and friends he names, the speaker considers (or has to) the docile best part of Pasteur -- the man who "teaching his daughter to use a microscope / And, each year, honor three births."

Furthermore the speaker puts Pastuer's action amongst "Socrates, Galen, and Hippocrates -- the spirit / Fastened by love upon the human cross."  A part of me doesn't know how to take the end -- there's a tinge of anger and cynicism since the context before is the travesty and change war does, but then there's that sense of hope because Pasteur is placed upon the same generous pedistal. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Analysis of "Autumn Almanac" by Ron Padgett

Original poem reprinted online here: "Autumn Almanac" by Ron Padgett
Originally read: April 21, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Ron Padgett



Meaning.  The end.  Well not really.  I found out about Ron Padgett from doing this blog, and I've done analysis of two of his poems, "Love Cook" and "Lost and Found".  I think what interests me about these poems is that he plays with so many techniques: tone, audience, line breaks, expectation, philosophy that there's humor on the surface, but if you want to there's "meaning."

But this poem addresses the concept of "meaning" in a poem, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  The poem opens up with this sentence, "Today there's supposed to be a break / in the weather."  Yes, there's the easy line break of "break / in" that could serve as a double meaning further into the poem, and it does.  However, the core of this poem addresses how a reader (unfortunately, like me) perhaps over analyzes a poem's techniques.

Let's continue with this analysis though on how the speaker addresses over analyzing.  The speaker buffers his rhetoric with a simile, "like weather in diaries" and the conversational tone like "If these were from the journal, of say," stop right here.  The lines are mostly talking about how weather is used conversationally and it's just a nicety -- let's keep going with the line and, "/ Herman Melville,"  Here we go, the sense of the ars poetica comes in -- the shift is onto Melville, but the tone is just the same, "you'd say, 'Hmmm, / six days in a row.  Herman sound grim.'"  Note how the speaker separates the writer Melville versus the personal diary writer Melville.  And even though the speaker does this, there's a blend and serious observation of Melville's words and not necessarily pedestrians writing, "it always sounds/ more important than it was."

Now we get to the meat of the poem:

     And in a poem that starts "A break
     in the weather" you sense significance
     because it's in a poem, where words
     have more significance, ho ho.

These four lines insult me, but I'm not insulted, more of like that slap in the face that open your eyes to things -- yeah that one.  So the speaker re-contextualizes the discussion above to poetry, and plays the same line break trick of "'A break / in the weather'" and of course it's significant be the speaker repeats the words.  Let me repeat that though.

The speaker repeats the words, not the meaning.  In the repetition, the meaning changes.  The speaker is addressing how people read too intently on "significance."  The shift of significance should be on the words in a poem, but note how the speaker doesn't state other mediums like prose and such, in poems words count and shift and shouldn't mean the same thing each time.

"ho ho"  but I still think this refers to Santa.  Or a hearty laugh.  Or a condescending laugh.  Or a laugh of someone walking away giving a koanic experience.  Meh.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Analysis of "Holy Sonnet X" by John Donne

Original poem reprinted online here: "Holy Sonnet X" by John Donne
Originally read: April 21, 2013
More information about the Poet:  John Donne



Another poem that has a lot of scholarship behind it.  Also, I've read this poem years and years ago and I think it's probably one of the best Elizabethan Sonnets (disregard what past me wrote in the beginning) written.  So I'll just go over my notes of the poem -- please go to another site for better analysis.

"Anthropomorphized death so the tone can be justified speaker, not 'yelling into the wind.'"  So the tone set up in the first four lines in the poem has a sense of bravado over the concept of death.  What the speaker does is attacks not only his concept of death, but the concept of death.  Also by deriding death the speaker doesn't, necessarily, show fear, but authority in which, "Those who fear death -- death takes away."

"Bravado about immortality or redefinition of death -- happens at the end,"  I think I'm referring to this line in the poem, "Die not, poore death, not yet canst thou kill me."  This could represent the physical or the spiritual "Death."  Or, more telling, that the speaker has more to say and write about death, and death will not shut him down (can be read semi-politically).

"What Death affects.  The physical form -- Death can only decay the physical so it doesn't matter if you are a:" and the line points to "Chance, kings, and desperate men."  Note how this is not a really strong connective list of people, but concepts -- "chance" anyone, "kings" class, "desperate men" state of mind -- yet these this, like the physical can death affect -- but not the "soul."

But there's a caveat -- how you die is physical, "poppie, or charms" brings a sense of "sleep" but the speaker doesn't note like illness, or war, why?  The focus entirely is between the speaker, the spiritual, and death.

For the couplet, "One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, / And death shall be no more:  death, thou shalt die."  Past me wrote, "The couplet reinforces an indignant tone as though the speaker is confident with the redefinition,"  also "The pride shifts from death to the speaker does [the speaker is prideful] does the speaker ten take on the attributes of death?"  I think this is the biggest irony in the poem.  That the speaker boasts and belittled death for being proud, yet the speaker is proud of belittling death's pride.  Does the speaker take on the attribute of death -- as someone or something belittled, yes.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Analysis of "Grief" by Richard Brostoff

Original poem reprinted online here: "Grief" by Richard Brostoff
Originally read: April 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Richard Brostoff






When I first read this poem I thought two things. 1) How risky it is to title a poem "Grief."  There's a higher percentage of sentimental verse and personal cringe-worthy experiences which can turn off a reader.  2)  What does Sargasso Sea represent in all this? So after rereading this a couple of times, I go back to the speaker who weaves together the allegory of the vortex to grief.

In the first stanza, the mention of the Sargasso Sea is puzzling still.  I think I did look it up and the Sargasso Sea has a history of having vortexes -- but I was looking for more of an allusion.  I'm pretty sure the allusion is quite obvious if I took some time, but it wasn't the focus of the poem for me, rather the language used, " disappears into itself" where the ambiguous pronoun works for the sea and the idea of grief.

The second stanza has that dual reference with this line, "Vortex how you repeat / a single gesture," where the direct object, the vortex, is mentioned, but it can't be helped to see grief as a "repeat of a single gesture."

The third stanza is where I think I should know the allusion to Sargasso Sea.  The "cup full of questions, / perhaps some curl of wisdom, / a bit of flung salt" seem to be the outcome or feeling during grief, but not so much the vortex.  The third stanza doesn't fit in with me that way.  I think this would be a strong last stanza, but the last stanza is pretty important to the poem.

Yes, it is the epiphanic last stanza which states, "You hold an absence / at your center, / as if it were a life"  where the speaker describes the grief/vortex through the simile of life.  Past me wrote, "Emotion or person going further into the internal to take memory of life, but not actually changing or developing from grief."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Analysis of "Bright Star" by John Keats

Original poem reprinted online here: "Bright Star" by John Keats
Originally read: April 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: John Keats







This is another poem that not only has a lot of scholarship on it, but also is the title of his biographical movie.  What can I add to this?  Nothing much really.  I decided in these situations, I'll just write down the notes I wrote, and explain them the best I can.

The first thing I noticed with this poem is the sonnet form -- 14 lines and it is Elizabethan -- sort of.  The first half on the poem is the personification of the bright star where the speaker envies the qualities of the "bright star" (symbol for whatever you want to make it to be).  However, the volta in this poem occurs in line nine with "No, yet still steadfast, still unchangeable."  It's not a shift in topic, but in tone, then the next line shifts the topic to "earthly delights."

I looked up words I didn't know like "Ablution" and "eremite." and how those definitions add to the idea of "being observant."  Also note that I didn't have to look up any terms in the bottom six lines of the poem.  Why do I note this -- the first eight lines are pretty heady, but the last lines have the more concrete images.

"Being alone and observing without judgment."  Yes, this sentiment sums up the first eight lines for me.  There is an object (nature) and it's to be observed, untouched; however, the latter half of the poem has more action -- doing, rest, live, swoon.

"'Speaker wants to take on the attributes of the stars eternal light that, even from a distance that, even from a distance has an impact on things (to brighten up) in this case "love" ripening breast'" Well not really.  The observational tone and discussion doesn't necessarily mean that the speaker wants the attributes.  Actually, the reverse could be true.  The speaker could throw away the attributes of "bright star [dom]" as long as there is something physically there -- okay a woman "to be eternal."

With the last line I noted, "Love to be in love (personal, real) or swoon to death (distance)  Does the feeling matter?  Or is it all about the feeling."  From rereading this poem several more times, it's all about the feeling and the real.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Analysis of "Midnight Loon" by Arthur Sze

Original poem reprinted online here: "Midnight Loon" by Arthur Sze
Originally read: April 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Arthur Sze






New York Style Buddhist.  That's what comes to mind when I read the bio for Arthur Sze, "'intersection of Taoist contemplation, Zen rock gardens and postmodern experimentation” by the critic John Tritica.'"  New York Style isn't the only "experimental" style, but when I reread this poem, the shift of events, the observant tone, the sense of play, the style fits.

So first I should point out that the couplet lines shift in meaning and usage as the poem goes on.  The first couplet focuses on the present with the burglars finding nothing of monetary value -- yet the shift in to comes in the next two stanzas when the left "imprints" of nothing behind, "laundry and bathroom lights on -- / they have fled themselves."  Note how the shift changes quickly in the tense, and also the pronoun, "they have fled themselves"  who do they refer to?  The laundry?  The burglars?  And when are we?

Past me wrote, "humorous start -- even through force, they didn't find what they were looking for."  To add on top of this  The humor has a thoughtful quality to it -- the search and the shift to what's actually on informs the reader on a certain level of depth -- a tricky, I don't know how shallow, depth which is compounded with the focus from the sound image "pitch of a motorcycle,"  to a visual image of a "midnight garden."

The leaps go further when the simile jumps to "Japan" and how the garden after the thieves escape become further and further interpreted by the speaker, "ocean waves / in moonlight, whirlpool eddies, circular ripples -- / and nothing is quite what it appears to be."  The jumps, the further usage of ambiguous pronouns, and the self explication without emotional tie to a "serious" event -- the more clear the poem is, the more mysterious it becomes.

But that's the interpretation, the present has simple actions like "unlatch the screen door" and a literal, "snake / slides under the weathered deck"  The following semicolon compares the real with the real to bring a surreal interpretation.  The speaker talks about the intent of the burglar as the speaker sees where the burglar broke through and comes up with this interpretation, "but no one / marks the poplars darker with thunder and rain."  As though to breath a spiritual entity to the situation but humanize and belittle the burglar.  It's as if to say -- things could be worse on a different plane of existence.

The last two couplets is a single sentence that focuses on the speaker watching and viewing whirlpools -- this kind of circular connection that looms overhead (yes, I used a sort a pun).  But this sentiment still puzzles me," though there is no loon, / a loon calls out over the yard,  over the water."  Past me wrote, "loon -- everything in this poem counts on the connotation of this image -- sort of.  1) The speaker interposes the sound to the scene, 2) The speaker wants to hear the sound, 3) What does the sound mean?"  Wrong approach past me.  What does the image represent?  Loneliness (emotional and physical), desolation, a call to a love not yet found -- these things are not there -- these emotions are not there.  Only wanted in the mind.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Analysis of "Paper-White Narcissus" by Lisel Mueller

Original poem reprinted online here: "Paper-White Narcissus" by Lisel Mueller
Originally read: April 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lisel Mueller



In the title, the automatic assumption is that there will be a correlation between the Narcissus of legend, and the Narcissus the flower.  This is not something new, but there's different approaches to the comparative allegory.

In the first stanza,  the speaker notes the comparison with the opening focusing on the myth, "Strange, how they got their name -- / a boy, barely a man, / looked into sunlit water"  And with the retelling of the tale, the speaker adds insight to the myth, "that treacherous reflection.  There is no greater loneliness,"  Okay, so the didactic part here is a bit overboard -- maybe to coincide with the tenor of the myth.

But the focus is the reading of the myth -- and the flower.  The pronoun "they" and "we" comes into play.  The they signifies a more communal tie-in with the myth and flower so that " the darkness of the pebbled pool / we have made for them in a dish" could be for both the myth and the flower.  That, indeed, we (as in speaker and audience) encapsulated the image, the myth, the flower to a "risen and broken" examples, that still yet, "show us their faces:"

Note the colon at the end of the second stanza and how this shows that the "faces" will be further defined -- by the speaker.

The last stanza defines the faces in a rather pitiful, sympathetic view, "They are so delicate they invite / protection or violation, / and  they are blind."  And even past me at this point wrote, "Yes, flowers are blind the connection to both allegories are implied here."  I would say further implied here.  Like the allegories are beaten over the head and are the main discussion.  Where it's kind of ironic in a sense.

The conceit of the poem is that the delicate myth is, "A controlled, cared for and a confined narcissus (plant/metaphor) rising from the darkness."  And yet by confining the allegory again in this poem to point out how fragile the usage and the allegory is, doesn't this show the weakness in the poem?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Analysis of "Absences" by Dom Moraes

Original poem reprinted online here: "Absences" by Dom Moraes
Originally read: April 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Dom Moraes






Past me wrote this about the line, "Smear out the last star,"  "Strong opening line that's expansive and has an edge of epicness."  Yes, Epicness! No not really.  The poem plays on the idea of what it means to be "epic" in a sense.  In every epic tale ranging from Odysseus to Ulysses -- the conflict has to come to the forefront; however, this poem deals more of the aftermath of the conflict.

The first stanza hints at where the direction the "post-epic" is going with the line, "The prolonged vowel of silence / makes itself plainly heard"  and, see, how the line break turns the noiseless into a noise and is followed through with something plainly heard and then transitions to the visual with "the ghost of a headland."  The transition to the silent to the heard regardless of hearing capability is like dredging up an idea.

The dredging up of an idea doesn't follow through with the next lines or the second stanza -- rather the focus is back to the "Absences" and, in the first stanza, the absence makes a sound, so the second stanza works to define the "vowel of silence."  "No vigils left to keep. / No enemies left to slaughter."  And in this post war silence there's the statement of the obvious, but note how the sentiment changes from an honorary "vigil" to violence of "slaughter"  and what is left behind, "Only shelter microliths and fossils. / Unwatched, the rainbows build"  Note how the center of focus is what's not there, and even though there's something being built.

The third stanza continues with the focus of nothing, "nobody left to be beautiful. / No polyp admiral to sip / Blood and whiskey from a skull."  And even though the last line is a bit outlandish, note that the image pops through the silence, and also note that the speaker by negating the image, the concept of the image comes across strongly -- the idea that there could have been someone like this (as outlandish) post war -- seemingly looking for more.

But that's my mind going away with itself, past me wrote "Every last line so far has to have an overarching general faux philosophical point like The speaker is forcing an epic in peacetime."  Oh past me, I think the reverse now.  The poet is writing the situation and is forcing peace into epic thought.  Remember in stanza two I noted the line, "Unwatched, the rainbows build"  and the poem is like that -- that in the silence there's something terrible, but more importantly, there's something good forgotten.

Pay attention to the construction of this sentence, "No sound would be heard if / So much silence was not heard."  Past me wrote, "duh" but look at the context.  The silence is defined by the lack of dualities of war/peace with war having more of an impact -- the sound is the reality kicking in where "clouds scuff like sheep on the cliff"  There's an expanse of nothing.

I wrote this about the last lines, "'World only held together / By its variety of absences.' *silence *empty homes *empty leadership *no beauty World defined by negative."  An addendum.  World defined in the negative.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Analysis of "Elk Skeleton" by Amy Fleury

Original poem reprinted online here: "Elk Skeleton" by Amy Fleury
Originally read: April 16, 2013
More information about the Poet: Amy Fleury






When I reread this poem, I didn't know if the pieces fit together.  And I think this is one of the strengths of the poem.  The three stanzas have a slightly different approach to each and different subject matter which make the leaps a little far off, but connecting.

For example, the first stanza opens with the alliteration of D "Down the draw at dusk seven mule deer" and some B "browse the blanched grasses."  There's very hard sounds here as though the speaker is forcing the reader or the speaker herself to stop and look at these deer and look at them eat -- majestically.  I write majestically because I feel the sentiment is forces within the two lines, and then the philosophical third line of "Not all has been winter-killed this early April" which brings a certain seriousness, and passage of time to the poem, and the line after referring to the deer as "sisters" and "shadows" brings an overarching metaphor -- this is more of a Deep Image style of poem judging by technique where the images are more representational of Jungian philosophies.

Yet, stanza two focuses more on the speaker, "my breath disrupts moth-dust on the sill."  Then the speaker focuses on outside things like, "The branches of fog-haunted furs appear / to have been assembled from brackish ash"  these images have are in the vein of Deep Image, but there's something off for me here.  the last line in the stanza, "from this forest's decay" does punctuate the style, but I don't know -- is it the inclusion of the "I" in stanza 2 or the switch away from the deer.  I think I should quote the last two lines of stanza 2, "Lichen brocades the stones hove / from this forest's decay"  I think "brocades" throws me off.  The juxtaposition of death and design from the observer stand point sends me another direction where I think something doesn't fit right.

The last stanza, focuses on the "elk skeleton"  and the alliteration returns with, "stranded, sunlit ship in the scree" which reads like a metaphor, akin to "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket" by Robert Lowell, but the line isn't an allusion to the poem, just similar. The overly symbolic comes again with the line "Gone the ruminant heart, the once pink / and capacious lungs".  And then the fade away to "a moth opens its delicate hinge."  "Moth" could be a pun for "mouth" (or I mistaken it due to the context of the skeleton."  But the techniques are similar to the first stanza, where the second stanza stands out not only on content, but on technique, and direction.  A little bit off, but connects.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Analysis of "Living in Numbers" by Claire Lee

Original poem reprinted online here: "Living in Numbers" by Claire Lee
Originally read: April 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Claire Lee






Read the poem first.  Take it in.  Now this poem was published when Claire Lee was a (if I got my timing and information correct) a sophomore in high school and was the one of five winners for the National Student Poet's Program.

Does this matter to me?  I guess.  It's more of the content that matters.  I also want to tie in this article, "Gimmicks," by Ron Padgett into my analysis of this poem.

The poem is in a parallel structure and the list is a count of things like "friends," "scars," "funerals attended" -- events that should have significant emotional impact, yet are reduced to a statistical influx akin to the stock market.

Once understanding this, then what?  Is this poem a gimmick?  Yes, it is, but it's not only a gimmick.  I think I read this poem in conjunction with reading "Gimmicks."  Padgett demonstrates two ways of looking at gimmicks in poetry with one side:



"devices encourage kids to be thoughtless smart alecks, witty at the expense of substance, satisfied  with a glib surface but insensitive to depth of feeling. Such critics usually emphasize the importance of meaning."

devices encourage kids to be thoughtless smart alecks, witty at the expense of substance, satisfied with a glib surface but insensitive to depth of feeling. Such critics usually emphasize the importance of meaning. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16099#sthash.zBzNUm1T.dpuf

Or another way of looking at this argument is that technique comes to the forefront and, if done improperly, would appear to be,  "worn-out surrealist imitation"; however, the flip side to the argument is that a poem overly dependent on meaning, "narrow insistence on self-expression will produce baloney."  Well that's not a great argument, how about this?  A poem overly dependent on meaning lacks the appeal to be reread.  Once meaning (or technique) is found, what's the point of going back?

Before showing examples of how to use gimmicks, Padgett points out:

"Self-expression is therapeutic and flashy technique is entertaining, but neither is necessarily good writing. So don't let anyone hornswoggle you into thinking you should teach one to the exclusion or detriment of the other!"

I find that this poem holds both an entertainment value and  -- not necessarily therapeutic -- but the meaning shifts when read again and again.  Why?  Context.

The count I mentioned above can be seen as the implementation of social media tracking devices (how many friends a person has, how many pictures of a funeral attended, how many regrets) that show how many, but not the how.  For example, "Number of things I regret: 11" in the first stanza versus, "Number of things I regret: 13" in the last stanza.  Do I wonder what the added two regrets are?  Yes and no.  Yes that it'd be interesting to know, but no since the poem is set up as a gain/traction meter on a daily basis.

Also another way of looking at this poem is the mindset of the speaker who tracks down improvement statistically and daily.  It's the act of in-expression that creates a comedic tragic element to the poem which is compounded with the anonymous first person speaker. "I" this and "I" that, but who is "I"?  A statistical distance from emotion, or measurements using statistics to remember.

devices encourage kids to be thoughtless smart alecks, witty at the expense of substance, satisfied with a glib surface but insensitive to depth of feeling. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16099#sthash.zBzNUm1T.dpuf
devices encourage kids to be thoughtless smart alecks, witty at the expense of substance, satisfied with a glib surface but insensitive to depth of feeling. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16099#sthash.zBzNUm1T.dpuf

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Analysis of "The Damage" by Emma Bolden

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Damage" by Emma Bolden
Originally read: April 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Emma Bolden






Past me wrote this for the first line, "Humorous opening line -- I hope it's (cherub's head) a statue not an allegory."  Why did I think that?  Because the title, "The Damage" is such a loaded title.  There will always be an expectation where the poem has to do about something breaking, and there's so much pressure to invent, reinvent or try something new with the expectation.

With that being written, the first line fulfills the expectation.  The damage is on the "cherub's head," but since there is a specific item -- the cherub -- then there's the foreshadowing of symbolism.  What does a replica of something holy, something sacred mean to the poem.

Butt of course we need a little back story, "The day before we'd driven nine hours."  The drive commitment solidifies that the "we" has a connection of some sort  (not like strangers, but not necessarily a couple).  Since the noun is ambiguous, so is the relationship, and the type of people, right?

"We'd only spoken through three."  Now, poetically speaking, this could show that there's a certain distance between the speaker and the other.  Or it could reference the fact that the speaker has more attention to detail than the other.  To me, the ominous tone of something "damage" is compounded with the specificity of time passing -- as though there's an anticipation for the damage. Realistically though,  c'mon,  I've been on road trips with family and friends -- talking for three hours out of nine is really good ratio.  There's only so much you can talk about before it's just filler conversation of no value.

"Now we were in the home we had to make," There's a tone of resignation and obligation here -- "we had to make" doesn't sound as hopeful as "will make."  The decline of connection is confirmed with this line.

The only piece of dialogue punctuates the decline.  The "he" in the we says, "Thank God, he said.  That hideous thing."  A sense of relief to have something damaged or gone; meanwhile, the speaker, obviously and predictably, is trying to justify her attachment with the hideous by acknowledging the faults and stating to "love" it regardless.

This poem holds a lot of emotional weight, and since this is prose poem there's more of a sense of a connection and a sense of a needed resolution.



Saturday, September 7, 2013

Analysis of "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forché

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Colonel" by Carolyn Forché
Originally read: April 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Carolyn Forché


Another difficult one to analyze because there's so much analysis on this poem.  A simple google search brings up meaning a definition to: the prose poem (the poem is in a messed up format here), the images, the impact of lines, the meaning behind the parrot, the meaning behind ears, the movement of the narrative, the domesticity of the beginning, the travesty at the end, the political, the personal, the obscene, and how they fulfill all expectations.

Furthermore, there are interviews with Carolyn Forché about this poem -- the truth behind the poem, the historical representation, and her experience actually being there.

So for me, I think to myself is there any thing to add?  Well I did add a lot onto the page and I wrote notes like, "The images get more and more violent and visceral as the poem goes."  Well, duh, after rereading the poem the speaker will interpret the images to be violent -- even "On the windows there were grating like those in liquor stores."

And how about this, "Description trying to get away from the poetic devices to buffer.  However, the bluntness/realness of the image [bleed through]."  Indeed, without poetic devices to worry about the focus of the poem is the content.  And the content does stand the test of time (I read this poem too many years ago, and the latest article I read about the poem was August 2013).

So this will be short, but this is what I like to add -- turn back now readers who want to find further meaning, biographies, facts about this poem.  It's all there.  Right before you.

Yet you have to remember that this is a poem that can be read on it's own and should be.  Not for a representation for historical significance, not a technique piece where  you have to beat out each image for meaning, and certainly not a piece political proof for today.

Just read the poem, note some things interesting, take a drink, relax, write what you need to, then move on.  Enjoy the moment between reading the poem for the first time, then looking up and finding all the answers you need.  All of them.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Analysis of "Chez Jane" by Frank O'Hara

Original poem reprinted online here: "Chez Jane" by Frank O'Hara
Originally read: April 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Frank O'Hara



Every time I read Frank O'Hara's work, I marvel on the grand themes and serious discourse in his work.  That's a lie.  Frank O'Hara has a sense of humor and tricks the reader by pivoting meaning of words and phrases without sacrificing "meaning" (the grandiose themes) in a tongue-in-cheek way.

But first, the set up.  The poem starts out fancy domesticity with "The white chocolate jar full of petals" and the observation of stationary boredom comes at the announcement of time "four o'clocks now and to come."

Then suddenly the poem becomes surreal with the introduction of the Tiger -- the description of the tiger is "irritable" and doing a lot of action, but note "without disturbing a hair/ of the flowers' breathless attention, pisses into the pot, right down it's delicate spout,"  Crude, yes.  Humorous, of course.  However, with the introduction of the boredom in the beginning of the poem, the surreal buffers any impact or any change.  It's as if the surreal is part of the scenery, and is part of the boredom -- it is the language that is obscene.

“Saint-Saëns!” it seems to be whispering,"  note the word "seems" which implies a speaker creating this scenario.  Also note that the "seems" here is inserting meaning into the scene.  But then "furry nuts."

Past me wrote, "Memories of the zoos projected into domesticity for boredom sake."  I want to add one thing that relates to "furry nuts" and that is the change from porcelin to fur -- the posh boredom to the real, the more vivid.

Now at this point the speaker is completely away from the surreal scene and into a memory of "Garden / of Zoos, the eternally fixed afternoons!"  and further into his imagination the beast, the tiger" becomes more lively by, "scratches its scrofulous / stomach" "a tongue given wholly to luxurious usages;"

Past me wrote that the semi-colon brings the reader "back to reality somewhat," but the reality shifts with the throwing of the chair in the second to last line.  Past me wrote,  "the 'menacing' throwing of a chair (moving perhaps versus the violence and audacity of memory." Very articulate past me, but the articulation at the end, "to aggravate the truly menacing." open up a broader picture of what the truly menacing could be -- domestic boredom most likely or whatever bourgeois intent placed on the poem.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Analysis of "Pompeii" by Charles Bernstein

Original poem reprinted online here: "Pompeii" by Charles Bernstein
 Originally read: April 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Bernstein






Depending on the reader's sense of background the opening line, "The rich men, they know about suffering" may come off as jolting.  I don't think the first thought that comes to mind is "suffering" when it comes to someone who is "rich" -- but the first line dictates how the reader should go about the poem -- a bit skeptically, a bit weary, but treading forward and not over thinking the lines.

Unfortunately, I naturally over think lines.  But the poem exposes it's intent with the line, "Rich men say they can't control,"  and past me wrote, "proverb -- wealth versus control.  Suffering at the loass of control."

The poem goes expansive after what cannot be controlled, "The tides, the erosion of polar caps / And the eruption of a terrible / Greed among those who cease to be content."  The line "And the eruption of a terrible" is a angular line break which plays on the expectation of the title "Pompeii" and sets up a metaphor between both Pompeii and "Rich man."

But this is Charles Bernstein -- I think in my head as I read this poem this first time.  I remember hesitating when I wrote this down for the metaphor, "Greed = poor.  Poor wealth.  Poor knowledge"  and the speaker does confirm this with the line, "Such wealth / Is the price of progress."  With such obvious metaphors and connections, I'm trying to find something L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E.  Something that forces me not trust the diction, syntax, grammar, structure.

But no, not really with the next lines which focuses mostly on the unassuming person of Pompeii's blast, the fishmonger, who lays out mackerel.

The last sentence brings a meta-poetic epiphany to the metaphor and the scenario, "In Pompeii, The lava flowed and buried the people / So poems such as this could be born." And yes, this is a burn on poetics, and culture, and wealth, and society, and...not what I was expecting.  There's a point plainly laid out on the page.  No mystery.  No subtext.  Just a completely exposed poem about Pompeii.  Which is actually quite interesting in the context of Charles Bernstein.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Analysis of "Pencil" by Marianne Boruch

Original poem reprinted online here: "Pencil" by Marianne Boruch
 Originally read: April 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Marianne Boruch


"Look, think, make a mark," is the core idea in the poem.  Even though the quote refers to the drawing teacher, look how those words affected the speaker.  Now, the poem could go into a nostalgic trip where the speaker looks, thinks, and makes a mark.  The poem does indeed do this but at the end, but the rest of stanza focuses on the idea of "look," "think" and "make a mark"

In stanza two, the focus is on the visual.  The imagery shifts from "white" clouds "darken" with rain, and the ability to blur an image into something entirely different "little woolies on the hillside."  At this point, there's a sense of the "cute" in here.  But the "thought" comes in  from an outsider perspective, "Look, my teacher / would surely tell me, they're nothing."  Past me wrote "What are "they" referring to?"   The options could be the shifts in image, the artist, or the speaker, or maybe all, but the use of they opens up the poem to delve further than art.

The poem takes more of a syntactical change in the next stanza, "Like that: the lie.  Like that: the poem. / She said:  Respond to the heaviest part "  Note how the colon is set to define the same term.  The poem goes a bit meta-poetic with the reference to "the poem" however, the usage of the term "poem" is appropriate" the term "the lie."  So, does the lie refer to the poem itself, poetry, or the act of creating a poem.  Well, to give a clue the speaker focuses on "Density is / form."  The weight of a poem, the content -- lies, but a misheard shift of language creates, "That I keep hearing destiny / is not a mark of character." The way the speaker or an artist places a destiny for the character regardless of how "random" the act of writing or the depth of the content may be.

The poem continues to focus more on language and the ways language can blur words together, "pilgrimage" --> "marriage" -- > "mir-aage, mir-aage"  there should be a tinge of cute sentimentality here, but the setup is  different.  The speaker has turned into the observer "look" and this is what the speaker thinks of the word, "I heard the famous poet let loose / awry into her microphone, triumphant."  The speaker is not referring to herself, rather, shifting the medium to an audio other.  Is there a judgement in the observation.  I think the word "triumphant" could be taken as a sincere judgment or a cynical one -- the poem does have an undertone of play with sincerity.

The other core in this poem (two cores) is this line "The figure to be drawn -- "  The figure isn't specified in the last two stanzas, but is defined, "not even half my age.  She's completely / emptied her face for this job standing still and hour. Look"  I wrote in the beginning there's a sense of nostalgia here, and I feel that this is where the poem either capitalizes it or I'm completely wrong...well those aren't two good options.

Why do I think the poem capitalizes on the idea of nostalgia here?  Due to my expectation that the "Look, think, make a mark goes" relates to the internal since the poem is written in first person.  But the poem is written turn to the observation of a "she" -- which could be the speaker or a woman, "Look. Okay.  But the little / dream in there, inside the think / that come next" The colloquial of "Okay" is a huge momentum stop in this poem which shows the process of think.  The phase of knowing what is being seen and what to think about it.  Blank. No emotional, physical, or spiritual attachment to the "nostalgic."

The poem ends with the tools of writing, "A pencil in my hand, its secret life / is charcoal, the wood already burnt, / a sacrifice."  Past me wrote, "mark -- the figure is made but at what cost?  The medium sacrificed for fame?  The muse sacrificed for form?"  Why not both, why not all -- how about the idea of self sacrificed to make a mark?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Analysis of "My anonymous hour" by Sarah White

Original poem reprinted online here: "My anonymous hour" by Sarah White
Originally read: April 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Sarah White




The title leads into the poem.  I haven't thought about the uses of that for a while.  In this poem in particular, I feel that the title leading into the poem emphasizes the narrative quality, no matter how broad or specific, in the poem.  Now, why is this not prose?  

Well, this poem is meta-poetic in a humorous way.  No, the speaker doesn't enforce paradigms or state what poetry should be, but rather the act of poetry.  

And so the intro goes as it should -- the stereotypical recovery meeting, the introduction "Hello, Sarah" to the time spent on not doing, writing in verse: 

     "I had an anniversary -- 
     six months without a line." 
     Applause. "But you know
     how it goes--

So, I ask myself again, why is this not prose?  But the speaker talks about how she wrote a verse about a adolescent girl, and called it "Schmatta."  Past me wrote, "Writing versus audience.  The poem has to go somewhere -- how the poem is interpreted versus [against] the intention of the poet."  The focus shifts to the subject, but turns right back around to the poet.

"Have you made amends / to those you harmed?"  And I think this is the core of the poem.  The idea that the responsibility of the impact of a poem is on the poet, or another way of looking at it is how responsible is the "muse" on the impact of the poem versus the interpretation of the audience. 

This is more of a question that never is answered in the poem.  Now if this was a prose piece, then, more than likely, there would be an exploration of this question; however, the poem doesn't answer but continues on with the meeting.  How the speaker had to explain to someone through e-mail to justify the writing of verse.

Every other thing in the rest of the poem fades to generality, "Others stand, /admit to gains / and losses in their fight / against the muse."  To me, the mention of the muse does a couple things.  One, the mention solidifies the idea of the muse -- an external force -- as the problem with verse, and, two, the muse is somewhat inconsequential to the speaker due to the humor and parody tone in the poem.  When I state inconsequential, I mean more of regardless the impact of the muse, the speaker will continue to write (no matter if it's prose or verse).

The last line of the poem "Some of us will slip."  Has a "cute" quality to it.  As though the speaker is saying that what's the worse that can happen?  Write a verse.  

And here's my contention with this poem.  Yes, the poem is humorous, and yes, the poem shouldn't be taken seriously.  But I waver on the usage of the stereotypical AA meeting to show these sentiments and humor.  There's some absurd, tragic, and sometimes funny things that happen in the meetings, but there's going to be a strong sentiment of trouble or wit's end there.  I think my contention focuses around how trivial it is to compare writing a verse meeting to someone who is struggling with addiction meeting -- if that makes sense.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Analysis of "Enoch's Blocks" by Olivia Clare

Original poem reprinted online here: "Enoch's Blocks" by Olivia Clare
Originally read: April 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Olivia Clare




So I looked up Enoch on the first read.  I found out that he's the "Son of Cain" or "the Son of Jared whose great grandfather was Noah."  Then after rereading the title, I find the allusion doesn't quite fit -- even the poem is a bit epic in an another way.  No, the poem is more about associations -- whether it be through sound "Enoch's Blocks," letter, colors, simple associations -- that first connect.

"Little Enoch learned his colors from the letter blocks"  The opening line reads as a preface to what Enoch learned, but also this is a forewarning of what the reader should learn -- how the associations happen.

Then the next stanza, which is mostly in parenthetical, plays with the idea of signifier and signified.  "A is the color of a fleet, / B is the color of war and demolition, / C is the color of echo and blur," now for those expecting actual colors, I'm pretty sure they'd be disappointed; however, the delving into is the signified -- the representation of the thing.  Now "color of fleet," "color of war and demolition," "color of echo and blur" might not produce "color" as we think of it, rather images that produce color -- multiple colors or a "bricolage" of images and color.

From here, the play continues with the difference between name and thought.  "CAB was a whirring warbler. / BACH was the Spanish Armada crashing / and crashing. / And ENOCH he couldn't describe."  It's the failure of language that cannot truly describe experience -- or that's what I get from these lines.  In these lines, of course as a reader I'm looking for connections, but when Enoch gives up on his own "titled" name -- this shows how representation (even of the self) as a signified couldn't be described.  Meanwhile, concepts like CAB and BACH are what the speakers make of it (or, in another interpretation, the capitalized letters could be acronyms for order -- if you want to look at this poem this way).

The last stanza, then becomes powerful in regards to signifier and signified.

    And when it reached the height of Enoch,
    standing, he tore whole tongue
    down to their colors.

So this confirms and reinforces the discussion of language and color with the last two lines -- and somewhat the thread I was going with the signifier and the signified.  Enoch then wants to focus on the signifier or "the colors" -- it's actually a universal experience type of thing.  Tree means tree physically, emotionally, spiritually -- easy, right?  But what of war, what of death, what of love. 

Either, for Enoch, the questions on how to unify the signified is either easy as breaking down the signifiers, or so difficult that the build up of finding meaning (signified) will eventually break down to human frustration.  Why bother?


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Analysis of "Apple Blossoms at Petal-Fall with Li Po" by Kevin Stein

Original poem reprinted online here: "Apple Blossoms at Petal-Fall with Li Po" by Kevin Stein
Originally read: April 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Kevin Stein


When I first read this poem, I looked up Non cogito, ergo sum which seemed like a familiar term, but there was something off about it.  So I open up that google translator thing and I write on the side, "I don't think, therefore I am."  And I'm like, oh what an interesting allusion to Descartes radical doubt theory.  Then I read the next line, "I don't think, therefore I am"  and my reaction  -- well I feel I fooled myself into looking something up and not gathering through context first.

But this poem tries to be out of context of itself, but is all connected.  For example even if the scene is different, there's the same pronoun or vice versa.  The poem tries to escape in the moment and "don't think, therefore I am," but falters a bit with each stanza -- and that's where the interest, for me, occurs.

So where is the failures in each stanza.  In the first stanza, the speaker uses Latin to describe his general feeling of being at "Apple Blossoms at Petal-Fall" but in the next stanza, the speaker is taken out of the moment with the realization that ,"But that's not Mandarin!"  Past me wrote that this was humorous, and it is because the poem works of perpendicular trajectory.  I think I'm going to coin this term...perpendicular trajectory...okay.  This is where the poem goes at a fast pace along the different angles that there's a slight regret, but fast forward momentum.

Like in stanza three where the speaker addresses the metaphor about dusts being angelic.  The metaphor  is "A fool's errand" for the we who are awake in bed.  There's a sense of closeness with the we here.

Then the sentiment changes to"we grow lonely though not alone" in the next stanza and the cloud of happiness changes to "in a cloud of her own making."  Note how the speaker takes a side here -- away from the blame and the focus is on the her.

Of course the focus is on the her -- the poem is so conscious that the spaeker notes this, "I know what I said.  I said her."  The speaker is on such a trajectory that there's nothing the speaker can do except to redirect the momentum but include the "her" along for the ride, "You'd like to know what I make / of her secrets, also our."

And at this point, I'm not thinking of this any further.  But past me looked deeper into the actions and ideas, "Further the poem goes poet gets lost in his/her own interpretations and allusions as Li Po get's .... " I can't read my own writing here.  So I think another way of putting it is that the speaker is getting further lost.  Actually, I think differently now.  The speaker is finding something each stanza about each stanza and, yes, lost to the overall meaning, but finding little things to be snarky about.

So the images in the next stanza twist human, and nature elements together, "warm from the oven of our unmaking, / soon these limbs winter bare."  These twits is in regards to the secrets.  And as I, the reader, would try to untangle the metaphors and meanings within the lines (domestic facade internal when the external is tangible and nothing there -- both bad elements in a relationship -- just my thoughts what the metaphors can be), the speaker stops the train of thought "Just don't"

Just don't, what?  Don't look too much into the poem, the fabled relationship, the individual images, the lines that lead to a perpendicular trajectory of angles, the mistakes of the self.  Stop.  As the poem, "Don't Think."

Which then refers to the line in the stanza which is a riff on Descartes.