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.