Thursday, October 31, 2013

Analysis of "Bye-bye" by Derek Sheffield

Original poem reprinted online here: "Bye-bye" by Derek Sheffield
Originally read: May 16, 2013
More information about the Poet: Derek Sheffield


The ambiguous pronoun of "it" is a predominate feature in the poem, and, even now, I'm trying to figure out if the "it" is static or if "it" shifts in meaning in the poem.  There's probably an argument for both, but where do I lean towards.

The opening plays with tone through enjambment and hyperbole:

     The animal of winter is dying,
     its white body everywhere
     in collapse and stabbed at
     by straws of light

The lines refer to "Spring."  So the metaphor of "animal of winter" is dying plays on opposition of animal of winter (presumably referencing the concept of a barren winter) is dying which equates to change.  Also the violence in line three and four bring more a visceral change which feels counter-allusive -- the light stabs.

Through this set-up, me as a reader expects this sort of metaphor and line play where the expectation is subverted through some sort of hyperbolic language.  This changes though as the lines continues as the focus is  something more domestic, "and the water drains from the tub / where my daughter watching it,"  note that this is the first usage of "it" in the poem.

I'm going to go over the usages of it in the poem:

1.  "and the water drains from the tub / where my daughter watching it"
2.  "lower around her, feeling it"
3.  "she can as if it were a long - / kept breath going with her"
4. "Down it swirls a living drill"
5.  "where tomorrow already / fixes its bright eye on a man"

Why did I stretch and list all the usages of "it" when I could be losing some context.  Well, at this point of the poem, the opening lines loses meaning as far as a connective image is concerned; rather the technique of subversion through language starts to evolve with the usage of it.

1.  Note how the daughter can see it (presumably water) but the speaker cannot describe it.
2.  Note how the daughter can feel it, and yet the speaker cannot describe it.
3.  Note how the daughter can say something about it, and yet the speaker can on write it.

See how the it creates not only a separation between the reader and the subject, but from the experience of the daughter and the experience of the speaker (presumably the father).  The shift happens with the fourth "it" where there's a direction "it" goes "down."  And the image attached to down has an interesting adjective/noun combination of "living drill" as though the it, through the description from the speaker, has a sense of life.

But this idea is further anthropomorphized as a man and the last usage of "it" focuses on a man and tomorrow and this is where the speaker comes in. "And tomorrow, / I will count more dark shapes / tumbling from the sky"  The speaker is has more presence in the future (the past decays, the present is undescribeable).

And so when we get to the last lines, "offering / in their seesawing songs / a kind of liquidity."  I feel the speaker is referring to the cycle presented in the poem "winter/spring" "past/present/future" "child/parent."  

The liquidity part comes off as a subtext where the real core is "kind of."  The showing of all these cycles as undefinable in one aspect but still flowing the last idea of a "kind of liquidity" is unspecific in image, but more understood in motion.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Analysis of "Blue Hanuman" by Joan Larkin

Original poem reprinted online here: "Blue Hanuman" by Joan Larkin
Originally read: May 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Joan Larkin







There's a merge between the art and the representation.  The actual and the interpreted here shifts through how the image is presented mixed with Hanuman -- a Hindu deity in the Ramayan.  So the question, for me at least, is how much of the allusion do I need to know in order to "get" this poem.

Well, allusions in the title and the first line usually telegraph how much information a reader needs.  Since the title is "Blue Hanuman" the focus is more of the adjective and how it interplays with the noun which further developed in the first line, "A four-armed flutist took me" -- note how the allusion works here, the adjective alludes to Hanuman while the flutist adds a different sense of the allusion as does "Blue" does to "Hanuman."  This is how the poem merges the actual and the interpretations with carefully worded adjective/nouns.

"Whiskers silver" also brings more color to the deity, but also sets a free-flow impromptu tone to the poem as though the speaker was continuously associating the idol and the image because of this scene, "paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper."  What does this add to the poem?  "Cheap paper" focuses on the value.  While more monetarily based, the image is rich and vibrant so the focus is on the image, "Intense concentration."

Coincidentally, the focus turns to the artist and the images become surreal as, "His ink hands rip open his chest , / pull skin aside like a velvet curtain-- / Rama and Sita alive."  Now does the Ramayan matter at this point?  Yes actually, but knowing a cursory knowledge of the story -- and how Rama and Sita's relationship work.  Also note that the majority of the focus is on the male figure -- the Rama -- then comes the exile -- the Sita -- with the last few lines.

     [...] And what devotion shall
     my flesh show, and my broken-open breast.
     His blueblack tall flicks upward, its dark
     tip a paintbrush loaded blue.

The return back to color should add more of a symbol to the color blue, but my attention turns to the "Sita" figure who is unable to share the "core" of the artist.  Now look at the adjective noun combination "broken-open breast" the adjective focuses what's left after something is broken into and what's the focus -- the shell -- the breast not the core.

Also note how the artist takes back control at the end of the poem, "tip a paintbrush loaded blue" which now sways the poem to the representation versus the interpretation.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Analysis of "Lesson in the Sunday Comics" by Jonathan Travelstead

Original poem reprinted online here: "Lesson in the Sunday Comics" by Jonathan Travelstead
Originally read: May 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Jonathan Travelstead



Tercets until the end of the poem.  There seems to be three driving forces in this poem:  the representation of Calvin, the representation of Hobbes, and the speaker adding more of an narrator tone in the poem.

First though, what really confused me was this in stanza four, "The friends, one named after a theologian, / the other a philosopher, hurtle pell-mell / down eight panels of hill,"  I searched for a while behind the meaning behind the allusion.  Yes, they do allude to John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, and then I realized I was looking too deeply to the allusion and seeing how the philosophy mixed with and within Calvin and Hobbes, or rather what the theologian and the philosopher mean to the poem.

But, ah, it is not the philosopher, but the philosophy that matters.  So on hone side there is Calvin who is thinks "we [note the inclusiveness] are helpless to fate" and in response "pushes off the hilltop in his wagon" blindfolded.  Fate will decide where "we'll" go.

Meanwhile, Hobbes "believes in free will," and is more of a thinker who asks the question, "Why are we powerless to rush toward oblivion?"  The speaker places these characters at opposite ends of the spectrum: action and thought, person and the imaginary, and then adds more detailed scenes like, "between haphazard probabilities of trees, / past stones waiting to chock rubber wheels," which fulfills more of the comic (not comedic) visual.

It is not until the fifth stanza when the speaker comes in and starts bringing the inclucivity on the situation by commenting on the artifice -- the panel., "Our illusion of control is shown in the wagon's flight."  Note that the connection that "we" have is to the flight -- the unadorned motion of freefalling as the characters represent how to look at the motion.

I thought this line pulls away from the thoughts and brings back the sense of humor back to the panel, "Hobbes' furry bottom is where the artist wants it / and in the last panel, Calvin has once more / released the steering wheel."  What the shift demonstrates is the couple of lines of insight to back to the knowledge that to present the knowledge from a comedic source.

And then regardless, "the ground rushing to meet them."  The thoughts, the humor, the shift to the serious doesn't change the fact that something physical and something "realistic" will meet them, us.

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Analysis of "Ave Maria" by Frank O'Hara

Original poem reprinted online here: "Ave Maria" by Frank O'Hara
Originally read: May 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Frank O'Hara



Prayer for a people.  Usually when I think of prayer, I think of the more internal that's told by a group of people.  Especially when this poem is titled, "Ave Maria" or "Hail Mary."  What this poem does is focus it's prayer outward and to the personal.  Who is the speaker addressing?  "Mothers of America," and "kids."

The disjointed lines add a sense of free-form  connection between mother and kids and the speaker's perspective in both.  In the first half of the poem is the impact of having kids search the world on their own, and the speaker makes good claims, "it's true that fresh air is good for the body / but what about the soul / that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images."  Go outside or the soul will fall.  How about these lines, "when you grow old as grow old you must / they won't hate you/ they won't criticize you they won't know."  If you give your child freedom they'll be grateful.

The further the poem progresses, the experiences the kids will be thanking their mother for become slightly serious and slightly funnier, "they may even be grateful to you / for their first sexual experience / which cost you a quarter / and didn't upset the peaceful home."  Past me wrote, "break of the mundane."  But to elaborate on this point, the speaker qualifiers this experience with "may" so there's a chance of not being grateful or being grateful; however, the speaker sets up a sort of expose.  That kids and mothers want is a "peaceful home," and in order to do so ignorance has to be played by both parties to each other "mother" and "kid"  Why is this important?

"If nobody does pick them up in the movies / they won't know the difference"  This is the reference focusing on relationships based on movies and real life.    So the poem goes to a sort of critique that kids need to experience and hold secrets to know the difference between fabrication and reality -- under a guise of a poem that's fabricating a "prayer" to a presumed sheltered audience.

Then the speaker states the consequences of kids staying home, "hanging around the yard / or up in their room / hating you / prematurely since you won't  have done anything mean yet / except keeping them from the darker joys."  Now there's a sense that this poem "propagates" sin actually -- the speaker is more enlightening the mothers.  If the home is overly peaceful -- too much like a movie, the kids will only see the mother as only a saint.  There is premature (meaning there will be hatred later on) hatred because "you" haven't done anything horribly mean (you arent' human [yes human beings do horribly mean things]) and keep them from darker joys.

Note how the dark is also defined here be the usage of darkness in the previous line "The soul that grows in darkness."  So on top of the whole sin thing (which is too prominent of an allusion to let go of), the poem also qualifies the darkness to the soul which, if it cannot experience "joy" can surely have "premature hate."

The speaker then intrudes in the poem, "so don't blame me if you won't take this advice / and the family breaks up."  This is the result.

However, the afterword focuses back to the core of the poem, "your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set / seeing / movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young"  The mind continues and regresses to the idealistic view of things.  It's like a continuous media affirmation of a life that could've happened.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Analysis of "Elegy with lies" by Bob Hicok

Original poem reprinted online here: "Elegy with lies" by Bob Hicok
Originally read: May 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Bob Hicok

Past me wrote about the title, "Elegy with lies -- but it's honest about the elegy having lies -- focus how the lies operate."  So with an elegy, a poem honoring a dead person, there's bound to be overstatements and understatements.

The first line deals with overstatement, "This lost person I loved.  Loved for a hundred years."  The overstatement is a personal view that continues to develop as the narrative continues.

Narrative elegy?  Well, the story is the speaker is searching for her "in a forest."  And the speaker tries two different things to find her -- "call her name," and "build a machine that believes it's God to call her."

The first attempt where the speaker tries to call out for the person.  Note how the  call is qualified with a parenthetical response of "nothing."  The understatement of "(nothing)" brings  a sense of determination from the speaker.  As for the next step, the speaker "builds a machine that believe it's God."

What purpose is the machine?  The machine, although absurd, characterizes the speaker and the subject.  The speaker capable of building a god or create something like this, but is still impotent to find someone.  Meanwhile, the subject, the woman, presumably, would answer the call from God, but doesn't respond only until the creation is torn down.

Note how violently she enters the poem (not necessarily returns), "she runs from the cabin / pointing a gun at my memories and tell me / to leave, stranger, leave, man of hammers." Here the divide between multiple levels comes forth -- what the speaker believes and what the woman believes, "man of hammer" and "woman with a gun".  The images create a surreal sense of what is, presently, going on.

And to emphasize the now, the speaker uses anaphora of "when" to demonstrate what's happening from his sober point of view:

     When I can't finish that story.  When I get to the gun
     pointed at my head.  When I want it to go off.
     When everything I say to anyone all day long
     is bang.

Here's the rub.  Pat me notes the "Elegy not for the "woman," but for the "I."  I would also note that this is an elegy of the perception of the woman -- the overstatement of the other which takes control and is present. 

And the present speaker wants the gun to "go off" regardless if the control is his or the other.  The thoughts of death is ever present in his mind that all he says to anyone is "bang."

And the bang comes back to the end, but the sound has an added element to it, "All day long, Soft as cotton, tender as a kiss. Bang."

Past me wrote that the "Bang is constructed in various ways such as, sound, onomatopoeia, regret, withholding name of the "real search."  Furthermore, the bang is the final absolution of the speaker.  The confrontation is done, and none -- the representation and the present -- are not there.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Analysis of "For Mac" by Jack Spicer

Original poem reprinted online here: "For Mac" by Jack Spicer
Originally read: May 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Jack Spicer





This is an elegy.  The references to death are high, but the execution of how death is looked at shifts with each line.  I feel this poem is dependent on line breaks.

I guess a little on line breaks.  When I think of line breaks, the usual stance is to break ideas to either over emphasize the last word or the beginning word.  Both would be great, but over doing emphasis, perhaps, could unfocus the poem.  However, every line here shifts the focus of death and the personal.

The first line, visually, focuses on a dead starfish on the beach, then on the five branches -- then the speaker does away with subtle metaphor and goes direct with, "Representing the five senses / Representing the jokes we did not tell each other."

Past me wrote, "5 jokes,"  and still, I find the line wonky.  However, it's not the actual that's the focus rather the tearing apart the symbol into the direct.  Yes, the stream of consciousness leads to this conclusion, but note how personal and direct the poem gets, and then the next line goes further out as if to forgot.

"Call the earth flat / Call other people human / But let this creature lie"  Note that the line continues with the thread of of science here.  Regardless of belief, or fact or fiction the line wants to let the person himself left alone, but the sentiments shifts.

"Flat upon our senses / like a love"  See how the line goes back to the earth, and note how the simile is like a temporary emotional anchor.  There's the affirmation that there was a close connection there.  And the poem could've stayed in this direction to solidify itself as a definite elegy, but then the line shifts the context again.

"Prefigured in the sea / That died / And went to water"  Yes, the poem circles back to the idea of water, but also note that the lines define love.  Not the personal kind of love mind you, the kind that washes over like death when expanded upon.

Then the emotions becomes symbolic with "All the oceans / of emotions."  A period.  The period stops the stream-of-consciousness with "emotion" which symbolizes the tone fluctuations with each line.  And within a sentence, the speaker asks sort of a dual question

     [...] All the oceans of emotion
     are full of such fish
     Why
     Is this dead one of such importance?

The "one" can refer to Mac.  But I would like to add that this is the first mention of fish which is defined as a tumultuously emotional and swims through different emotional meanings and definition -- why is the oceans of emotion full of this type of fish.

And

Why is this dead one (fish/Mac) of such importance?  The speaker tries to peel away the metaphors, but then it's too rough and switches subjects to put new metaphors that are not emotionally stable.  Why is this dead one of such importance? Because it's death makes the speaker act the way he does.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Analysis of "The Frog Pool" by James Martin Devaney

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Frog Pool" by James Martin Devaney
Originally read: May 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Martin Devaney

Rhyming sestets.  So I actually have a purpose of announcing the form at the beginning.  Past me wrote down that the rhyme scheme is "sing songy -- goes with the absurdity of the poem.  AABBCC.  Also most of the lines are end-stopped.  Usually my mind would gloss over with this type of poem, but this one interested me because this reads like a fable.

Also, my bias is that anything with "Frog" and "pool" anywhere in the poem has to do with Basho's famous poem about the old pond.

Weirdly though, after reading this poem more and more, I think this poem successfully detaches itself from the allusion because of the rhyme scheme, the content, the humor, and all within a form.

The first stanza starts out with the passage of time and the effects -- time passes, the pool shrinks.  The anthropomorphism of the drought is tempered with the adjective "fierce" and noun "fiend"  so there's already a one-sided depiction to the poem.  And then there's a shift to a thunderstorm.  Now the speed of the action indicates the first stanza works as the exposition and the focus will be on the thunderstorm.

In the second stanza the first line, "And hark! hark! hoarse and harsh," is funny to me -- the alliteration couple with archaic usage, and the rhyme scheme just brings an over-the-top emphasis to this poem.  Like everything is important.  At first I didn't want to take the speaker as genuine, but the enthusiasm gets me like here, "Wake! wake! awake! awake!"  What I'm writing that this poem is so genuine with the enthusiasm that it's hard for me to dislike the techniques.

Even when the poem attempts to be tricky, "The drought break!' / but no, that chorus seems to me, /more a primeval harmony." Okay it's pretty bad, but the rhyme of "me" and "harmony" feels forced, but the enthusiastic cannot be denied at this point.  It's like a puppy running around barking for 10 minutes -- it's cute, and funny, and entertaining.

In the last stanza, there's general violent nature imagery, "thunder booms,"  "floods flow" "skies crash,"  a bit apocalyptic, but it's the point of the view of the speaker -- this childish enjoyment that turns the serious around, "a pandemonium of delight." 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Analysis of "Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River" by Tu Fu

Original poem reprinted online here: "Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River" by Tu Fu
Originally read: May 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Tu Fu


Continuing on with the idea of metaphor, the speaker in this poem automatically compares himself to the blossoms along the river.  Both are alone.  Now, the reasons should unfold throughout the poem, but I want to explain the picture past me drew in the margins.  The image of blossoms along the river are easy to visualize, but past me (and current me), doesn't quite see the connection.  Or rather, when it comes to loneliness and nature, there are some other representative images, but it feels like the blossoms near the river either have an historically symbolic reason or a personal symbolic reason.  Maybe a little bit of both.

Yet, the focus of the speaker's loneliness is further impacted with the drinking.  "But my friend in wine / Gone ten days drinking" and then the image of the bed in which could be a symbol of lovers.

The following stanza has a weird opposite reaction, "in fear of spring. / Poems, wine -- even this profusely drive, I endure.  / Arrangements for this old white-haired man can wait."  Past me wrote, "opposite reaction -- Spring being more livelier, but what's more alone than feeling alone when everyone is around?"  I just want to add on top of this is the kind of reverence and venom with the description "old, white-haired men can wait" as though there's the understanding that his is what the speaker has to "endure" while the other is gone.

The next stanza focuses on the mixture of nature and domestic images where the speaker, "I too have my place. / With a lovely wine, bidding life's affairs bon voyage."  I'm not entirely too sure about this line -- the tone fits with the idea of letting go, but the tone is a bit contrary to the spring stanza, but this could be setting up the emotional distress which is curiously downplayed the next three stanzas.

The next three stanzas focus more of place, "Looking east to Shao,"  "I admire that stately Po-hua wineshop," "East of the river, before Abbot's Huang's grave"  and, "At Madame Huang's house."  Now these locations, especially Abbot Huang, could be the person the speaker is mourning.  However, I don't get a sense of that here.  The execution of the places feels more like a marker for places the speaker escapes to.

*Po-hua -- beautiful dancing girls (the speaker cannot bear to look at)
*Abbot Huang's grave -- a crush of peach blossoms opening ownerless (speaker comparing self with being with no one)

*Madame Huang's house -- the attention to thousands of blossoms where everything is fine (to set up a jarring realilzation)

     I don't so love blossoms I want to die.  I'm afraid,
     Once they are gone, of old age still more impetuous
     And they scatter gladly, by the branchful, Let's talk
     Things over, little buds -- open delicately, sparingly.

The speaker understands the beauty of the moment, but further knows about the loneliness that happens when "blossoms die"  (or the people who represents the blossoms die or leave).  And so the last lines, "open delicately, sparingly" I feel has a genuine loneliness/subtle sting to it.  

In one way, the blossom that opens delicately and sparingly could be enjoyed for longer moments of time; however, the blossom that doesn't bloom full and bright wouldn't be admired so much amongst every other blossom.  Although this interpretation isn't there in the poem, for me, there's a sense of what appreciation is, and how that knowledge is attained when something is gone.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Analysis of "The Hen Swallows a Worm or Slug" by A. V. Christie

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Hen Swallows a Worm or Slug" by A. V. Christie
Originally read: May 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: A. V. Christie






The very first word I circled and labeled, "hen and speaker."  There's a comparative metaphor going to be explored in the first stanza.  Where the poem goes after describing the metaphor will be explored in the second stanza.  I gleamed this knowledge from the first word. 

Does that mean all poems like this that start out with "we" turn out like this.  Probably not, but the majority bringing in an item in the subject and then starting off with "we," alerts my metaphor senses.

And as the poem starts the action of scratching is compared. "she kicks off / in a fan behind her.  I use a stick / to dig."  The action of uncovering has a heavy handed connotation for discovery, but what they both find are pretty moot "roots" and "a slug."  This is something normal, and yet there's a quantifier to this discovery, "how complicated she is and how resigned."  Past me wrote, "resigned -- loaded and foreshadows theme in the poem."  And yes, the poem goes towards the sense of resignation.

But first the speaker goes in depth about how the description of how the hen eats the writhing worm, "Then the long slick going / down.  It fills the throat, like all that's swallowed."  Past me wrote, force fed something disgusting to speaker but way of life to hen."  That's past me reaching for the metaphor, to try to understand why there's so much description about eating this worm.  But look at the simile, "like all that's swallowed."  The ambiguous usage of "all" will come back into play with this poem.

In the second stanza, there is a focus of finding more -- more scratching to find, "grubs" that are "larger / than pale yellow larvae I prize from inside chestnuts."  The returning back to the speaker's perspective foreshadows that the metaphor between the hen and the speaker will go back to the speaker, but there's a hard turn.

     [...]  Nevertheless I am
     repulsed by my husband's embrace.  I turn
     now from his thick belly, breasts, his interests.
     A body I had clambered over, loved.

Note that the focus is on a relationship and how the hen (the speaker) and the husband (the slug/worm) are viewed more in the physical light.  How the speaker keeps digging to find the mundane that she has to swallow.  Furthermore, the execution of this idea has a sexual duality "all that's swallowed."  Yes, this may seem gross, but the poem works on the line of metaphor and comparison, but, what is left ambiguous is left to the imagination.

But there's directness with the last lines, "I cover myself. / Another sticky truth dug up / that I must re-bury--"  I find these lines too on the nose like he speaker has to announce this is how to read the metaphor -- yup -- this is my truth. 

Past me wrote "[the speaker] takes on the attributes of the hen the speaker constructs for what purpose?  The focus is on the speakers disgust and how she has to construct her own reasoning to justify her feeling."  And I think this idea is the core of comparative metaphors.  That the speaker will, eventually, construct similarities and differences, but for what purpose?  Here, I feel the speaker is trying to express the mundane, but at what ambiguous and one sided cost?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Analysis of "A Vision" by Oscar Wilde

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Vision" by Oscar Wilde
Originally read: May 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Oscar Wilde






From the beginning I noticed two things.  One, that the poem is an Elizabethan sonnet.  Two, I tried my best to pin the images to allusions.  Why?  The poem doesn't make sense to me if the lines don't allude to certain things.  But at the same time, I have to take the poem as is if I can't pinpoint the allusion.

For example the first line, "Two crowned Kings, and One that stood alone" is a very narrative and heavy line.  First, there are kings, and second the focus in the "One" that stood alone.  Past me wrote "Dante?" But that doesn't make sense because Dante wasn't a king, nor did he aspire to be one.

The entire time Past Me thought Antigone reading the description.  But this isn't the case.  The focus is of the third "one"  (not the third king past me wrote).  And look at the forlorn description this "one" has, "with sad eyes as one uncomforted, / And wearied with man's never-ceasing moan" I'm not too sure what "man's never-ceasing moan" refers to.  Yes, there's the inclusion of "sin"  but of what sin?  What is the sin that can't be atone, "sweet long lips with tears and kisses fed"?

And here's where the punctuation of Antigone hit, "And at his feet I marked his broken stone,"  There's a sense of Antigone here, but this is wrong.  The intent is similar, burying someone close, but not the actions.  Where Antigone had dust, this speaker is more eulogizing the "one" with "lillies, dove-like to his knees."

So now what?  Well this poem, up to this point, still has an elegiac quality to it.  There's the "one" who is not remembered but only by the speaker.  I could think this way about the poem. 

Until this line, "I cried to Beatrice, 'Who are these?'"  There's only one Beatrice that I know of in literature and that (again) refers to Dante.  But that doesn't necessarily make the "I" speaker Dante.  What the speaker could refer to Beatrice as the muse to make an elegy.  At this point, the speaker is trying to write the elegy, but it isn't coming together -- very broad, too mournful as if trying to escape the personal.

And the allusions at the couplet, "'Aeschylos first, the second Sophokles, / And last (wide stream of tears!) Euripides'"  These lines refer to what "Beatrice" answers.  Looking back the "two crowned kings, and 'One'" could refer to these playwrights.  But that's when the allusion starts to take over the poem.  Does the speaker consider "Euripides" as the "one"?  And if so, why the separation of the two? 

This is to say that there's a lot going into the poem where, I feel, the poem is dependent on the allusions (more so at the end) which lead to confusion.  Also this could be Oscar Wilde trolling and tounge-in-cheek mocking the three playwrights as ambiguous kings.  This wouldn't surprise me either.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Analysis of "Riprap" by Gary Snyder

Original poem reprinted online here: "Riprap" by Gary Snyder
Originally read: May 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gary Snyder


At the very beginning of this analysis past me wrote, "Riprap (n) loose stone used to form a foundation for a breakwater or other structures.  (v) strengthen with such a structure."  And the poem plays with the ideas of "structure" not only through the form, but also the wording.

The first two lines indicate the parallel between language and nature, "Lay down these words / Before your mind like rocks."   Note that the focus is on the speaker's words, not language as a whole.  His language.  There's a set up of the prophetic speaker that both talks about language and nature.

The majority of the poem though is set in nature regardless of subject.  What I mean is a line like this, "Before the body of the mind / in space and time:" (interesting internal rhyme) has it's root in nature and the "body" and "mind" part of this line comes off as a metaphor and direct.  The body and mind of nature.  The body and mind of self.

"Solidity of bark, leaf or wall / riprap of things:"  The inclusion of a "wall" to have the quality of solid brings a natural to the man made.  Furthermore, the idea of bark and leaves being contrasting textures but they are defined as the "riprap" (foundation) ties in the metaphor of foundational being more than texture.

"These poems, people, / lost ponies / Dragging saddles --"  I haven't mentioned yet how, even though the poem speaks of foundation, the poems structure is very jagged, left adjusted to ten space adjusted in intervals.    For me, every line stands out because of this, but the use of white space implies something to me -- that even though there is a foundation, there needs to be more built up.  Look at these lines. The speaker bring the attention to the "poem/people" idea which is then compared to "lost ponies with / dragging saddles."  What is missing here?  The rider.  A sense of direction.  The white space is where the reader should fill in these questions.

The reference to the game of go compared to the world is expansive, yet too ingrained in the spiritual for me.  Yes, I know I wrote that no matter the subject the poem goes back to nature.  But what specifically about nature is the "world" referring to?  The "ants and pebbles."  To me the jump here seems easy life -> challenges versus the other uses of simile in the poem.

Just a slight thing as the poem turn to more of the stone, back to the riprap.  And how Granite is defined as (because of the colon) "ingrained / with torment of fire and weight / Crystal and sediment linked hot"  So the images are well rendered, here the tactile and visual come through because of comparison of granite (something opaque) is composed of multiple crystals (clear).  Also note the feeling of fire, and the weight added to the line constantly shifts tactile imagery which transitions to the last lines.

"all change, in thoughts, / As well as things."  The chaotic transformation of the images isn't dangerous, but natural, and the speaker emphasizes that the thoughts and things have a natural change, chaotic yes, with purpose that is the question.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Analysis of "From On Being Fired Again" by Erin Belieu

Original poem reprinted online here: "From On Being Fired Again" by Erin Belieu
Originally read: May 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Erin Belieu


The lackadaisical, colloquial tone really does shine in the first half of the poem.  The title itself has a semblance of exasperated humor where I, mentally, put my emphasis on "again" which foreshadows the speaker's intent to discuss her multiple firings.

The sarcasm is apparent with the first two lines, "I've known the pleasures of being / fired at least eleven times--"  Am I expecting her to list off all eleven?  Yes, and no.  If the speaker does list off all eleven, then there's a sense of focus, but if the speaker doesn't, then the ones that come out the most shocking come out and adds to the sense of exasperation.

And the big ones are "Larry who found my snood / unsuitable."  The sound here is pretty funny, "another time by Jack / whom I was sleeping with."  If ind this one working for the humor because the tone continues throughout the piece.  "Poor attitude, / tardiness, a contagious lack / of team spirit;"  The list of managerial reasons brings up the "reasons" she was fired, but not really the understanding.  The tone allows this type of list to continue and be funny without much introspection.

Even when the speaker goes specific in the third stanza:

     squirting perfume onto little cards,
     while stocking salad bars, when stripping
     covers from romance novels, their herorines
     slaving on the chain gang of obsessive love--

this is still a list, a list that continues the humor.  I do have to note that the internal rhyme of "cards" and "bars" adds to the humor; meanwhile, the line break of "stripping" made me think of her actually stripping and so the next lines have a slight edge to them because of the contrast of "stripping" and "romance."  I think that is the indicator for a slight change.

But the change is so drastic and so insightful, "and always the same hard candy / of shame dissolving in my throat."  Past me wrote, "Too on the nose -- like the reasons of getting fired."  I can see the contrast between being direct but not understanding why versus being direct and understanding why.  The abruptness, to me, seems really off and I don't know if I should take it as the ultimate form of exasperation or just a joke.    Well the "hard candy / of shame" is a weird image contextually as though to "stand apart."

And this is what confuses me even further, the return to the tone in the last stanza, "handing in my apron, returning the cash- / register key."  These are direct actions, but the poem goes philosophical, "the perversity of freedom."

It feels forced, as though the speaker has to say something that is grand in order for her experience to mean something.  And, yes, I understand that this may be the point, but the way in getting there is clunky to me (just like the speaker, I know).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Analysis of "One Cigarette" by Edwin Morgan

Original poem reprinted online here: "One Cigarette" by Edwin Morgan
Originally read: May 6, 2013
More information about the Poet: Edwin Morgan


Confession.  I used to smoke cigarettes for years, and that probably biased me to this poem.  So when I read the poem the first time, there's a lot of jargon that focuses on the addiction or "thoughts of an addict" where the "speaker is appropriating the cigarette to love.  Speaker is setting it up for disbelief." 

However, rereading this poem, I'm not entirely sure about the "hidden symbolism" or "psychology" of the poem.  Not that I don't think these things exist in this poem, but rather I was thinking of what can a speaker get away with in a love poem versus other types of poems.

Direct image with a direct meaning.  I think love poems can get away with this.  The more understood the image and sentiment, the more the message comes across.  It's not flashy or technically complex, but there's something refreshing reading the line as is.

For example, "No smoke without you, my fire."  Yes, the fire is a metaphor for the lover, but that's pretty obvious.  What makes the first line interesting is the syntax mostly how the focus is first on the smoke, and then the fire as though to set up the definition  of one and then the other.

Then the direct story.  "After you left, / your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray / and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey."  Interesting direct image.  I'm not really too concerned of the deeper metaphor, but simple descriptions "quiet gray"  "cigarette glowed" which adds to the ambiance of the poem.

The direct saying, "I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal / of so much love."  The thought is what counts -- well in multiple ways here (but lead to the same conclusion) who -- the speaker, the audience, the lover."

The poem then focuses on the lingering smell and taste of the smoke, and then the quick comparison to, "You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips."  The verb "drunk" is interesting in the context to the poem focusing on the smoke, but at this point I feel the emotional pull of the poem -- that lingering want -- both described as a metaphor and the real come through first that the language (for me at least) falls to the wayside.

The last lines are very, well:

     Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
    Till I hear the very ash
     sigh down among the flowers of brass
     I'll breath, and long past midnight, your last kiss.

The attention to sound brings all the senses to the poem and immerses the reader in what the speaker is experiencing and feeling.  And the last lines "flowers of brass" could turn the poem towards more of an elegy than a love poem.  Regardless, a love poem is sometimes an elegy and vice versa. 

I understand the feeling, mood, and language of the poem -- simple, direct, but with memorable images.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Analysis of "The Paltry Nude Starts on a Spring Voyage" by Wallace Stevens

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Paltry Nude Starts on a Spring Voyage" by Wallace Stevens
Originally read: May 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Wallace Stevens








I knew this was an eckphrastic poem from the title and the first line.    The words that lead me to this knowledge was "nude" in the title and "shell" in the first line.  But what if this wasn't an eckphrastic piece?  Well, I might be too saturated with Wallace Stevens, Botticelli, Poetry, allusions or all of the above.  In some ways, at least for me, it's impossible to separate the poem and the allusion to the painting.

However, the speaker tries to separate his words from meaning or interpretation of the painting.  "The Birth of Venus" is a pretty acclaimed piece of art, but the first lines of the poem seem a bit jarring, "But not a shell, she starts / Archaic, for the sea."  Archaic.  Obsolete.  Not so much the reverence appearing in the painting or from people that know this poainting.

If find the last lines of this quintet interesting because I automatically equate, "She scuds the glitters, / Noiselessly, like one more wave" as an allusion to "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" ("I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.")  Does this mean the lines are allusive and correlate to the poem.  No not really, but there's a deep sense of disillusionment which is punctuated with the next line.

"She too is discontent."  This line is straight to the point on description.  From here, the poem will go on why she's discontent.  But also note that how the speaker sets up the "proof" of her discontent.  The description on in the second quintet is more physical: "purple stuff upon her arms,"  "Tired of the salty harbors."   "Purple stuff" is a pretty broad description, and the images of harbors versus the eagerness for the "interiors of the sea" goes along with the directness of the line.  And such directness takes away a sense of allure and play that, possibly, the art presents.

That is until the third quintet where there's pretty description, "she touches the clouds, where she goes, -- / In the circle of her traverse of the sea." A part of me likes the directness of the lines, but I can see why there's a back and forth in the description to build the speaker as discontent like Venus.  What the speaker wants is not clarified, but the varied tone suggests a sort of struggle to accept one interpretation or the other.  Also the use of conjunctions put a light on the transitions.

"Yet this is meagre play" This self addressing of the lines undercuts the strength in the description in the third quintet pretty viscerally. Past me highlighted, "As her heels foam" and wrote, "can't coalesce Art with intent." The transformation between heels turning into foam is an image that reminds me of the Hans Christian Anderson "Little Mermaid" where she tuns to foam at the end.  Yes, another allusion which leads to the speaker's thoughts...perhaps.

The last quintet the speaker envisions Venus' life as "Scullion of fate, / Across the spick torrent, ceaselessly, / Upon her irretrievable way."  Past me wrote, "The subject is far too disparate from the want of the artwork, or, the speaker admits that he can't connect the two (art and his intent) in this poem." 

I'm not so sure about the past me interpretation.  The projection of what the speaker sees is so strong that the poem is more about the speaker than the image itself.  This is what he thinks the art would lead.  This is what he thinks of her.  This is what he thinks.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Analysis of "South" by Jack Gilbert

Original poem reprinted online here: "South" by Jack Gilbert
Originally read: May 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Jack Gilbert


A third person kind of fable.  Even the beginning reads lulls the reader into a sense of anticipation for change, "In the small towns along the river / nothing happens day after long day."  Past me wrote "domestic boredom."  Now that I think about it, isn't domestic boredom the start of the imaginary or rather a catalyst for some fantastical change.  Well boredom does that to peopole.

Anyway, the boredom is punctuated by these two lines, "Lives with only emergencies, births, / and fishing for excitement."  Past me noted, "domestic fun."  But What I read now is more a of a sarcastic point of view from the speaker.  However, maybe it's me that reading too much into it because the straight description of the poem is quite monotone and any hiccup of emotion (the judgement call of "excitement") makes me believe that there is a a shift in tone.  Regardless, the towns themselves are "boring," but how the speaker feels about them may be questionable.

Then there's the change, "Then a ship / comes out of the mist." The change comes mid-line, and right in the middle of the poem.  The change comes off as a needed volta in order to liven up the poem (there's only so much boredom that I can take."  The start of something new.

Yet the change is mysterious, the boat:

     comes out of the mist.  Or comes around
     the bend carefully one morning
     in the rain past the pines and shrubs.

note how the arrival of the boat is well detailed.  It's how it arrives -- out of the mist, or in the rain which not only brings a difference in focus, but also a difference in scenery to the "summer."  The change is mysterious because the focus is mostly on the arrival.

What changes occur can possibly be inferred by three words, "all lit up."  But this states nothing really, not in the context to the poem.  But this is the first "light" image as though bringing something new (on top of scenery) to this place.

The after effect is just as mysterious, "Gone two days / later, leaving fury in its wake."  Past me focused on the idea of "fury" as the crux of the poem.

*Fury -- relation to town. Town furious
*Fury -- Place disrupting natural order
*Fury -- people on the boat projecting their fury on a place.

maybe all.

The reason why I focus on fury because there's a change of emotion here.  From boredom to fury,  something had to occur.  Or maybe this is the focus of the poem.  A new element introduced to a static element, regardless of what is done, can change  (positively or negatively) of a static element.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Analysis of "Here Be Monsters" by Katharine Coles

Original poem reprinted online here: "Here Be Monsters" by Katharine Coles
Originally read: May 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: Katharine Coles



This poem is particularly difficult for me to decipher, and I wanted to go back to this poem after trying (and I think failing) the first time.  After rereading this poem, I still don't "get it,"  but at least I'll put my notes down on what I don't get and, hopefully, someone could explain to me the intent and drive of this poem.

What I do want to point out is the structure, the offset couplet and single line.  The lines, to me, simulate a push and pull effect which enhances the sentiment of the first line, "We could fall off one / Edge or another."

The other technique I want to point out is that the beginning of lines are always capitalized.  Although a minor thing, there's a different set of emphasis that I try to deny because of the repetition of the capitalization, but there are some parts that  the emphasis reconstructs the meaning of some lines. 

But what is the meaning of this poem.  Actually wrong approach.  How does the images work in this poem.  There's a lot of references to natural disasters or nature itself.   "glacier / Meets sea by pushing into / Erosion's demand and response."   The natural is personified, but also put into awkward situations that, logically, I can't imagine, even though I feel I'm on the cusp of getting.

I do get that the nature images transform more human like and still take on the qualities of nature.  For example erosion, "could swallow a body whole / Then close on itself, sucking / Its tongue,"  the first image deals with taste, then the discussion of unknown entities on a map, "But fully imagined, voracious / Tooth and claw / White to the bone."  I think this is done for the sake of "our progress,"  which I note ,"first reference returning to the 'we.'" 

I do also want to point out the usage of conjunctions capitalized in the poem "But" or "Or" like there is only one choice or the other.  The capitalization emphasizes the idea, yet on the page, the first word at the start of every line is capitalized, the impact is not as in your face, but still impactful.

Moving on,  I think for me, I didn't really get the transition -- I know it's there, and "our progress" is a factor, but the following  lines focuses  on the end construction "It doesn't matter" repeats twice in the poem so that's a dead give away the lines, well, either matter too much (more speaker driven) or they actually don't matter (subject driven), and since the poem is more subject driven the focus goes to the last few lines.

"In the mind, which is / It turns out the body after all."  The trick is the coalescing of the body and mind which doesn't happen in the previous lines -- rather the integration is shown in the most awkward of melds of metaphors and images which, purposefully done or not, doesn't compute well in my own mind.

And so I feel there's strength in the last line, "Where surface will not hold / We must shatter."  The sort of command to transcend, but transcend from what?  World/human form to the one of the mind which is, stated before, part of the body and, to me, cannot fit with the turmoil of transformation.  Or, is it the preconceived notions of the poem needs to shatter like the lines one the bottom of the page (four solitary lines if I'm not mistaken) and, then, ultimately, "it doesn't matter."





Thursday, October 3, 2013

Analysis of "Against Writing about Children" by Erin Belieu

Original poem reprinted online here: "Against Writing about Children" by Erin Belieu
Originally read: May 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: Erin Belieu






Humor.  The tercets really bring out a sort of angular bite with each line.  For example, when the speaker states that she is not surprised when people privately despise children the response is "I can't say I'm completely shocked, / having been one."  The sort of bite does two things  -- 1) centralizes the issue back to the speaker and 2) for the "others" there's the presumption that they forgot (or remember) their own childhood.  The humor is with expectations and the line breaks.  Added to this is the slightly cynical tone which switches between empathy between the "adults" and "childeren."

Like this line break in stanza two "I was not / exceptional, uncomfortable as that is / to admit, and most children are not / exceptional."  Once again the twist goes back to the speaker.  She's not exceptional and the line break seems like to go against this thought with other children, but no the line reinforces the "not exceptional" children.

Then the tone shifts to a more childish voice where the images start out with sizes "Large and X-Large", then the usage of "fat dog" as a put down/reference then to "Mean Miss / Smigelsky"  Yet the tone shifts when "Mean Miss Smigelsky [...] slapped you for crying out."  Why the build of of the child voice in the last couple of lines, to comment on them -- to refresh the reader of the child time frame so the speaker can comment on the tone.

"Children / frighten us, other people's and / our own."   Past me wrote, "statement core in the poem because there's the ability to wax philosophically here to further define this statement.  By defining this statement, then the tone and the humor are put into further context: "We feel accosted by their / vulnerable natures." or "Each child turns / into a problematic ocean, a mirrored body growing denser and more difficult to navigate."  The simple direct lines turns more into metpahors (waxing poetically" until the epiphany/judgement call, "They become impossible / to sound.  Like us, but even weaker."  I'm not a big fan of the line break and the sentence structure here.  The split up of the simile estranges the subjects so  it's pointed out that "here, here is the meaning of the poem.

And I don't mind the epiphany.  Well, maybe I do.  I do like the interplay of line break and tone, but with this subject matter (children), there's a sense that the poem can become too "cute" if the play goes on too long.  However, the epiphany at the end is foreshadowed by the flow of the poem, and especially the title and first line.  Why do people hate children?  Reflection of the self, perhaps?  Well it's pinpointed down as the reason here.  And that pinpointing (epiphany) is most likely the reason why I do mind.  But I don't know how I would end the poem with the flow going as it is.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Analysis of "Fled" by Lisa Ampleman

Original poem reprinted online here: "Fled" by Lisa Ampleman
Originally read: May 1, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Lisa Ampleman








Deer in this poem carries a lot of weight.  I don't know if the weight is intended for the poem or it's me adding that extra baggage to the poem. What I mean is that there's a lot of allusions to deer in other poems like "Traveling Through The Dark" by William Stafford, Tang Dynasty poets, Kobayashi Issa, some poems probably by Hass and Snyder and Kumin -- some I don't remember the titles of (as you can tell) but I do remember how "sacred" the image is if the image is central.

But the image is not as central as the previous ones -- mind you the image of the deer is quite important, but the image is used as a direct parallel metaphor and what the focus of the poem is, then, a relationship.

The speaker establishes a more contemporary feel with the first stanza referring to "reception" for a cell phone.  Furthermore, reception isn't double sided, but rather very direct to listen to "voice / mail, terse, all business."  And during this hike there's "the oil - / painting deer."  And here is what sets the deer image apart from the ones that have been burned (fortunately or unfortunately) into my mind.  The adjective.  Seems simple, but for an image dependent poem (at least for the first part) adjectives have a huge sway on the direction the poem will take.

 This is why I find oil-painting deer to be a descriptor that may be referential, but also focus on the artifice as well.  The adjective is signaling to the reader that the deer is a prop for some deeper issue.  So when the speaker continues the scene also becomes more artificial -- look at the description, "The sun radiating / off the road, the trees / distant havens of shade."  The description is dream-like, but also note the usage of "shade" in the line as a reference to deep-image (perhaps) which uses the image more genuinely.  So, I do feel the image of the deer is a "riff" but not in the disrespectful way -- well maybe.

The deconstruction of the deer in the second stanza takes away the dream-like quality of the  to more of an abrupt metaphor.  First the disillusionment of the physical, "Legs bony as a greyhound."  Usually, I'm not into the simile comparing one animal to another, but I think this is the point -- breaking the connections.  Then there's the automatic gender of she and then the placement of the ideal situation, "she could have the woods."  Inserting a simile into another, inserting a dream within a dream-like state becomes so convoluted that the now, the real, will trample over this ideal, "I shifted, / and she disappeared."

The third stanza reintroduces the "you" as the speaker takes on the quality of the deer.  The you, "would've been / the guns cracking in / the woods."  And here I'm iffy about.  Sure the beginning has the you as distant, but then the you transforms into the hunter image -- it's two different modes.  And so the ending, "I'd heard that week / but never seen" fits with the auditory "real" and the visual "dream," but comes off a bit, one sided.

I get that along the way the adjusted lines are trying to force a wedge between the speaker and the you, and also, since the poem is in first person, the focus is on the speaker's point of view, and not showing the "you."  However, the dream-like image (general) is followed with dream-like image (you) with the genuine speaker interpreting the before, the now, and the meaning of the deer as a lone victim running away from imagined bullets.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Analysis of "A Man Said to the Universe" by Stephen Crane

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Man Said to the Universe" by Stephen Crane
Originally read: April 30, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Stephen Crane


A very short proverb, no so much a poem though.  I can see this quoted at the beginning of a paper or something and be a single line and still have the same impact.

In any case though, the line breaks create a separation of what's said and response.  The statement that man says is stated alone for importance, "Sir, I exist!"  Construction wise, the politeness of sir combined with the exclamation mark brings a forced importance. 

The line break for the universe's response, "The fact has not created in me / A sense of obligation."  brings multiple meanings. The line break versus the  single line shows a certain level of depth where the line "The fact has not created in me" can be taken as a stand alone line as more of a call out out to personification and the construction of a concept.

And (not really or) the full line is weighted with the word "obligation" in which past me interpreted as, "existence -- even though equal in importance, does not mean one is entitled to the other than acknowledgment."

So why do I write this as more of a proverb than a poem then -- the impact, which is strong, becomes more the focal point rather than the techniques that bring up the impact.  "Are you defining poetry as techniques that create an impact, and the techniques either can be focused on or at least serve equal weight of a work."  Well, if you put me in a corner, most likely.