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?

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