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?

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