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.

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