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."