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?