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.

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