Saturday, November 30, 2013

Analysis of "Good-by" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Original poem reprinted online here: "Good-by" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Originally read: June 6, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson

So the structure is as follows:

Sestet (ababcc)
Octave (aabbccdd)
Octave (aabbccdd)
Octave (aabbccdd)

I think the first two stanzas work as a reverse Italian sonnet where the  question being answered is in the first stanza, and to whom the question refers to is answered in the second stanza.  The last two stanzas of the poem work differently as though the content is for a different focus and expands in an ethereal way.

But first the reverse sonnet.  The first line of the first stanza is. "Good-by, proud world.  I'm going home."  And so there's the answer.  The speaker is saying good-by in the most distanced terms, "Thou'rt not my friend, and I'm not thine/  Long through thy weary crowds I roam;"  And by setting the distance the speaker metaphorizes his distance through the image of the foam being tossed around from the ocean.  Victimizing?  Reasoning?  At least the speaker is determined on leaving and going home.

The second stanza is the question.  What is he saying good-by to specifically.  And the whole stanza is a list.  Let's go individually then:

1) Flattery's fawning face -- the alliteration brings a sense of cynicism to this line.  Flattery won't be missed.

2) Grandeur, with his wise grimace -- the personification of Grandeur makes the concept of grandeur have a "wise grimace" which is an interesting adjective/noun combination.  It's like the Grandeur has been around for a while, but unhappy at the good-by.

3) upstart Wealth's averted eye --  the aversion could refer to poverty.

4) supple Office low and high -- I think this goes towards politics -- too much of it, regardless of rank?

5) crowded halls, to court, and street -- a more human image.  The synechdoche still separates the speaker from society.

6) The frozen hearts, and hasting feet -- still general description of society that the speaker is leaving behind, but note the contrast of images -- frozen and hasting -- as though society is at it's worst at both ends.

7) To those who go, and those who come -- Just like the previous line, note there's a distance and divisiveness with both images.

The poem is about death, or leaving.  But more importantly, the choice is up to the speaker rather than something happening to him.  The speaker is choosing to leave this particular atmosphere for something completely different, as described by the last two octaves.

The third stanza harkens back to nature with, "yon green hills, alone, / A secret nook in a pleasant land."  It's as though the speaker is bringing up the image too highly and note that the speaker takes this idea and tone and moves the image into the fantastical, "Whose groves the frolic faeries planned;" -- this place is untrodden also, "And vulgar feet have never trod" -- untouched, only for the speaker.

The lat stanza has an impactful first line, "Oh, when I am safe in my sylvan home."    The key word here is "safe."  The speaker is leaving one place to another to feel safe.  And in this safe place he is able to, "laugh at the lore and pride of man, / At sophist schools, and the learned clan;" Intellect?  Rhe hamartia of of man?  The speaker acts above this because -- he is the "man in the bush with God may meet."  He's meeting God, who knows everything, right?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Analysis of "Mary Tired" by Marjorie Pickthall

Original poem reprinted online here: "Mary Tired" by Marjorie Pickthall
Originally read: June 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Marjorie Pickthall

Past me noted that the poem is composed of "rhymed couplets."  The majority of the stanzas have even lines with the exception of the third stanza.  The rhyme scheme dictates how the narrative works.

The poem is mostly exposition though as evident with the first stanza.  The focus is on "Mary"  -- yes, the biblical Mary post birth with, "With the earliest hush she saw / God beside her in the straw."  Well, I'm assuming it's post birth.  The reference though is to Jesus as god.  I think.

In the second stanza, the focus is still on the exposition, but more focus on the scene, "Drowsing Joseph nodded near, / All the glooms were rosed with wings."  The the last three lines of the stanza indicates a change of perspective, "She was tired of heavenly things / There between the day and night / These she counted for delight."  The change in perspective is mostly around the oblique and, at least, less obique.

When Mary, tired, of heavenly things -- there's the allusion to Jesus, and god once more, but also a distance there.  Meanwhile, by "counted for delight:" note how the colon will list off some tangible things for her.

Which begins in the third stanza, "Baby kids that butted hard / In the shadowy stable yard;"  An actual kid, not a heavenly kid.  "Silken doves that dipped and preened / Where the crumbling well-curb greened;"  Although the description of the doves are brought up through the adjectives -- these are actual animals, and the crumbling to juxtapose the silk goes to the extremes with the types of image: revered and decayed.  Then there's a speed of the list with, "Sparrows in the vine, and small / Sapphired flies upon the wall. / So lovely they seem musical."  For me, I agree with past me, "like the lines above: sing-songy."  But sing-songy with a purpose.  Reality seems out of place, but it's more tangible than "heavenly things."

The last stanza focuses on the "heavenly things, "Out of cups the morning made / of a glory and a shade."  But note the usage of sage to foreshadow a deeper or contrasting view of these events because, "while unseen the seraphs knelt" the (divine).   mouse crept in and, "curled / Near the Ransom of the World."  Past me wondered what the "Ransom" of the world meant -- or if there's an allusion to something else here.  I didn't find anything; however, the way of interpreting "the baby" as something that can be looked at as a ransom has so much potential, but here, it feels purposely put here as a "here I am, this is what I want you to think."

But the nuance of the mouse slipping by and sleeping next to "God" has more of an impact for me.  That, regardless of divine stature, humans abide by natural epistemological rules.  Yes, mice do sleep in barns, easy to acknowledge.  Seraphs watching overhead.  Well...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Analysis of "Plowman's Song" by Raymond Knister

Original poem reprinted online here: "Plowman's Song" by Raymond Knister
Originally read: June 4, 2013
More information about the Poet: Raymond Knister

A song. There's an expectation of refrain and maybe even rhyme.  The rhyme happens on the second and fourth lines which adds a distanced effect that barely clings together sonically.  Also for this poem, the refrain of "Turn" adds a sense of tension because of what the turn does.

1.   Turn under, plow
2.   Turn under Griefs
3.   Turn mouse's nest
4.   Turn, plow, the clods
5.   Turn, under, plow
6.   Turn under.

With the exception of 1 and 6 the phrasing is all different.  But with 1 and 6, the context changes.

The introduction of the "turn" goes straight into metaphor with, "Turn under, plow, my troubles." And so when the second "turn" appears -- a duality is in play, "Turn under griefs and stubbld" where there's a a reference to burying griefs, and to the actual of moving stumps.

The mix of the metaphor and the actual come into play in the second stanza with the quatrain focusing on the actual in the beginning and the representation at the end:

     Turn mouse's nest
     Gnawing years
     Old roots up
     For new love's tears

Granted, "mouse's nest" seems purposefully inserted into the poem since the image doesn't fit with the flow of images (plowing), but the image implies a sort of home, a sort of connection that is gone for the "new love's tears"  (which I think the metaphor is going).

Then in the third stanza, the speaker goes back to the plowing of "clods" ("Turn, plow, the clods"), which seems pretty mundane, but "for new thunder" is an image that goes contrary -- as though the lines are a cause and effect.

So when we get to the last two lines, "Turn under, plow, / Turn under."  The lines sounds like a plea for something to change, but not turn.  In context to the poem, the "turn" is to lose, to bury, to destroy, to do the same things over again; however, the want implied at the end is a change away, a "thunder" -- something loud which the speaker cannot say.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Analysis of "Unfollowed Figment" by Lyn Hejinian

Original poem reprinted online here: "Unfollowed Figment" by Lyn Hejinian
Originally read: June 3, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lyn Hejinian

"This poem is one of a series, all of them elegiac in intention, and subject to the strange forces of mourning that let loose illogical developments, into impossible configurations of thought. The poem is built of non-sequiturs, because that’s what’s left in the wake of the death. We cannot follow the dead, whether they are persons or ideas. Instead we remain, but in a situation that, in their absence, makes no sense." - See more at:
 "This poem is one of a series, all of them elegiac in intention, and subject to the strange forces of mourning that let loose illogical developments, into impossible configurations of thought. The poem is built of non-sequiturs, because that’s what’s left in the wake of the death. We cannot follow the dead, whether they are persons or ideas. Instead we remain, but in a situation that, in their absence, makes no sense."

This quote is from the site, in which the poet, Lyn Hejinian, has the chance to explain her poem.

Non-sequiturs, yes. Elegaic, sure.  The poem follows the idea of "Unfollowed fragments" set by the poet who also explicates the poem itself.  There doesn't seem to be any reason to go forward in an explication sense of trying to figure out symbol or theme in this poem.  The poem doesn't operate like that.  Rather I'm going to go through the poem and see how the speaker uses language to end up with the same result and not seem like mad rant.

"Useless lighthouse, and the bucket on the beach, the tattered begonias."  This is an image line where the adjective/noun combination of "useless lighthouse" in which the adjective useless has more of a judgement call which fades with the use of the conjunction to separate the images.

"Forget examples -- there's not an entity or detail around that isn't more than a mere example."  Rhetoric based on definition.  "Examples" range from an entity or a detail.  They take up physical space, not so much time.

"What's truly funny?"  "truly" is the key word here.  Wouldn't truly refer to the verb "is" rather than "funny"?  I ask because the statement of "is truly" has more of a philosophical ramification that butts up against the concept of "funny."  But the verb is hidden adding a layer of syntactical depth.

"Once upon a time there was a mouse, and there was a cactus and a pair of very small rubber boots with a hole in the sole of the left one, and now that I think back I remember that there was a baby on a barge in a lake full of flowers, and out of these there's a story to weave and probably more than one."  A list of fragments in which the speaker tries to find meaning in the flow, not necessarily the images.  Yes, there's a mouse, a cactus, boots with a "sole" in the left one -- but the images tempt to reader to have an actual connection which is broken by the authorial intrusion of the speaker trying to re-contextualize the scene in real time.  There had to be a baby, and this story could be woven to more stories.  But there are no stories.

"The music changes at the mantel, the bassoonist is baffled, the synchronizer fails"  a play on assonance and alliteration.  Play with m, then b, then the abrupt "syhchronizing fails" line takes away the sound.

"It is empty good writing, is it research, resurgence, repartee?"  Past me tried to find a connection with this line and "useless."  However, I find this line now more meta-poetic.  The speaker is addressing the idea of "empty good writing"  -- can it be called research -- just noting what's looked up?  resurgence -- revival of a past style (akin to Stein or Naturalists...I think)? or repartee -- just wit, something to get by?  Note that this poem itself has demonstrated a couple of these, and also with this line there's no "" or "or" to separate the list.

"8, 9, 10, 11 minus 31, 8" I won't fall into the trap of math...okay I doesn't add up.  And I feel this is the response to try to make things add up and follow a logical structure, only to miss the answer by 1, and to double check we go back to the beginning of the problem which is 8.

"A stranger creates an occasion" my mind wants to see this line as an allusion to Camus, "The Stranger" so my mind will.  It's not the occasion that is made, rather what type.

"Lewd silver sea, your bigness carries barges as noon stands in grass" yes this line could reference the long almost narrative sequence above.  But here is the return of the judgement based on adjectives which is demurred by the surreal images of "noon stands in grass."  So there's a slight change in technique.

"See, I got cops -- or they got me; so says the melancholy memorist from the anarchy of her dreams"  This line plays with expectation.  The anger implied with "I got cops" is then turned on its head by "they git me" a duel of contrasting emotions that is paralleled by the memorist vs anarchy of her dreams.

"Clear is the sojourn"  the path is there -- it's there, but not traveled.

"In the stiff air, down the unbalanced wind, over dusty culverts, women bear their hot cells of benevolence"  The images narrow down further and further: stiff air, unbalanced wind, dusty culverts -- an overall scenic image but the next lines don't follow the ideas, about women and cells.  I'm not too sure how these images work. Meh.

"Are all wonders small?"  A rhetorical question that goes back to the title, "Unfollowed Figment" as thought to question the poem, but the question importance of line, size, craft, and, presumably, death.

"This poem is one of a series, all of them elegiac in intention, and subject to the strange forces of mourning that let loose illogical developments, into impossible configurations of thought. The poem is built of non-sequiturs, because that’s what’s left in the wake of the death. We cannot follow the dead, whether they are persons or ideas. Instead we remain, but in a situation that, in their absence, makes no sense." - See more at:
"This poem is one of a series, all of them elegiac in intention, and subject to the strange forces of mourning that let loose illogical developments, into impossible configurations of thought. The poem is built of non-sequiturs, because that’s what’s left in the wake of the death. We cannot follow the dead, whether they are persons or ideas. Instead we remain, but in a situation that, in their absence, makes no sense." - See more at:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Analysis of "Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly

Original poem reprinted online here: "Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly
Originally read: June 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Bly

Lac Qui Parle River

What is actual is actual.  The poem is split into three sestets which chronicles the journey of the speaker through Minnesota.  If I get my geography correct, the speaker is going from Willmar to Milan to Lac Qui Parle River.  So the three stanzas sort of represent each individual journey; however, the speaker introduces little snippets of techniques that expands the poem from a simple journey.


The usage of semi-colons in the first line, "I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota" sets up an offsetting list, or rather, the situation is deliberate enough where the reader has to focus on these three aspects.  There is a speaker who is driving.  The time frame is dusk.  The context of the poem is within Minnesota.

Yet, look at what the speaker notes on this drive, "The stubble field catches the last growth of sun. / The soybeans are breathing on all sides. / Old men are sitting before their house on car seats".  Each line plays with the normal and the surreal, and the surreal happens after the action -- "catches the last growth of sun," "breathing on all sides," "sitting before their houses on car seats."  The image is what the speaker perceives, the action is what the speaker interprets.

And through his interpretations, "I am happy."  Yet, then in the last line, the surreal bits switch so -- after rereading the line -- the awkward action is in the beginning rather than the end, "The moon rising above the turkey sheds."  The turkey sheds fit the motif of the images above ("stubble field," "soy beans," "Old men,") -- a kind of rustic interior -- the moon, which is exterior, seems off in the first sestet.

There's a refocus in the first line of the second stanza to to the car, "The small world of the car / Plunges through the deep fields of the night, / On the road from Willmar to Milan..  The over exaggeration of where the car fits adds a sense of the interior -- the car is the small world according to the speaker.

This mindset is further exemplified with further abstractions added to the car, "This solitude covered with iron / moves through the fields of night / Penetrated by the noise of crickets."  Esentially, the two sentences mirror each other in description but the intent is skewed a bit. 

In the first sentence, there's still a semblance of a visual direction.  However, the switch to the auditory breaks the visual and brings in the "noise of crickets" -- a distraction away from the interior to the exterior.

The transition in the third stanza works as exposition, "Nearly to Milan, suddenly a small bridge, / And water kneeling in the moonlight."  Note that this is the first usage of a conjunction in the poem which brings together the images of the small bridge and the water.   In the previous stanzas, the separation is the focus, here, there's something that merges.

The merge is further punctuated with the reference to "small towns" and the semi-colon in the third stanza, "In small towns the houses are built right on the ground; / The lamplight falls on all fours on the grass."  The techniques harken back to the first stanza -- the surreal from the verb, the small town, the semi-colon, as thought to rebuild that distanced happiness that was set up in the first stsanza.

The last two lines, "When I reach the river, the full moon covers it. / A few people are talking, lo, in a boat" seems anti-climactic in the sense of the narrative -- going to one place to another to find something.  But the poem is more of a turnaround than forward momentum.

Here the speaker brings in the moon again and goes back to the observer mode where the "turkey sheds," and "A few people are talking, low, in a boat" have a parallel structure.  What I see the speaker doing is try to translate that sort of happiness in the serene to the end. 

I think what makes this poem is not if it works or not, rather the attempt.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Analysis of "Discrimination" by Kenneth Rexroth

Original poem reprinted online here: "Discrimination" by Kenneth Rexroth
Originally read: June 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Kenneth Rexroth

Cocky? Pretentious?  The tone has audacity, "I don't mind the human race."  Which is then followed up by, "I've got pretty used to them"  -- a pretty awkward statement, but an intriguing one.  The focus here is the mindset of the speaker whose tone  and insight on the subject of the "human race."  And the short declarative lines makes this poem have unintentional (or intentional) humorous moments.

     I don't mind if they sit next
     To me on streetcars, or eat
     In the same restaurants, if
     It's not at the same table.

These lines have a personal feel to them, the level of detail and disdain is humorous as the speaker nit picks what he can "tolerate."  And what of these situations?  Dinner, and a streetcar.  Note how the speaker can "mind" them if they sit in a streetcar, but would rather not have "them" at the same table for dinner.  The poem progresses through the sense of isolation, until the turn.

"However, I don't approve / of a woman I respect / Dancing with one of them."    Now the focus is on an individual woman -- dancing with "them."  Of course the humor is in the specificity and the distanced judgmental tone.

But the situation sits as though the speaker attempts to reconcile with the "them," the other, "I've / Tried asking them to my home / Without success."  Amicable, yes.  But the isolation of the self becomes further prevalent as the judgement goes outward after this moment.

     [...] I shouldn't
     Care to see my own sister
     Marry one, Even if she
     Loved him,

Note how the judgment is solidified here towards men.  Careful though, past me went on this rant about Feminism, but I feel this is not the case with this poem, well at the very core of this poem.  What this poem does is separates a type of person, rather than gender.  It's not necessarily man versus women (although, as past me would demonstrate in the notes, this can be one strong interpretation of the poem)m but I feel that the poem has stronger sentiment on the human race as a whole.

"Their art is interesting. / But certainly barbarous."  These line draws me.  The judgement is of the art being barbarous -- although funny lines, they inform and can be comparable with the last sentiment, "I'm sure, if given a chance, / They'd kill us all in our beds."  Barbarous acts -- both in art and in violence.  Yes, these things are interesting.

The last line dismisses the possible depths of the previous lines, "And you must admit, they smell"  This is the first instance of "you" in the poem which, I think, makes the "you" -- I think which addresses the audience -- into the group with the "I" -- the isolated judgmental type.

Of course this poem is satirical based on the extremes, so the "you" should also be in the joke -- not part of it like the human race.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Analysis of "Bloodletting" by Alex Dimitrov

Original poem reprinted online here: "Bloodletting" by Alex Dimitrov
Originally read: June 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Alex Dimitrov

When reread this poem, I focused too intently on past me's notes, "Mockery of the divine -- Dionysian focus?  Human focus." And throughout the poem, I tried to find more cases of mockery and how it affects the poem.  Also, I spent some time thinking of what Fellini's works fit in with the reference made in the poem.  Perhaps, Fellini's Cassanova.

Yet, the more and more I read the lines -- the couplets, and how the speaker views the "you" in the poem, I feel the tone and the allusion work more of a stage presence, some backdrop in order to characterize both the speaker and the "you" in this sort of world.

But yet I digress, The first lines does indeed have a Dionysian effect, "The gods have no choice / but to let us live a little -- / they would die for comedy."  However, the shift in the line happens on the third line where it would seem like the speaker is mocking the gods, but instead the gods have no choice but to look down at the situation between the "You and I."

Then comes the reference to Fellini, "You and I today, we're like bad actors / in a black and white Fellini movie."  I haven't watched any Fellini movies, but I did do some research, and took away from it this line -- Fellini's work is "synonymous with any kind of extravagant, fanciful, even baroque image in the cinema and in art in general."

So I debated with myself for a long time (as I mentioned earlier) and the basic question boiled down to this, "how much am I missing from this poem if I don't know Fellini?"  A part of me says a whole lot, and a part of me says not much.  So I'll try to argue both.


"A Whole Lot"

When the poem refers to a specific point like, "The scene where the boys undress / and color the river with sex" has a visual impact on a multiple level -- if I knew the scene then I would understand what the speaker is going against with a line like, "is useless." 

Furthermore, the line referencing "bloodletting" would allow me as a reader to jump from the allusion to allusion, and understand how the references interact with how the speaker views the relationship. 

So when the line "let us feel this thrashing" transitions to the internal visual images (and the pistons of the heart, the heart --" to a more personal also correlates with the movie reference which I'm guessing is "Fellini's Cassanova" and foreshadows a more tragic end.

"Not Much"

Fellini in the poem is more of a smoke and mirrors which reinforces the outside view the speaker sees in the relationship with the "you."  "If you can't show red, why bother filming?"  If you can't express color, or expose what is there -- there's no part of filming -- or more importantly now point in watching.

So when the reference goes to the scene -- the reinforcement of cinema acts as a macro to the relationship.  Each coupling is a part of the "you and I" in which the speaker sees as "useless" as bloodletting -- the physical withdrawal of blood to improve health.  The withdrawal from a "relationship" to improve self.

But that doesn't matter -- there's a physical investment, "And the pistons of the heart, the heart --"  the repetition not only adds a sonic quality, but also parallels (and foreshadows) the urgent merging of the "you and I"

"aren't pumping fast enough / to let us feel this thrashing."  The speaker wants a ramp up physically, so  "you and I" feeling something together -- pain is something at lest.


I feel I'm overreaching on the "Not Much" section, and not pushing far enough with the "A Whole Lot" section.  I'm pretty sure that there's a way to merge both, but my mind doesn't go to that direction with this poem.  I feel one interpretation overpowers the other.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Analysis of "A Silly Poem" by Spike Milligan

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Silly Poem" by Spike Milligan
Originally read: May 31, 2013
More information about the Poet: Spike Milligan

Humorous poem.  I'm not so sure how to go about this to analyze.  I guess I'll start with the title.  The title announces that the poem is a straight forward silly poem -- so the mindset of the reader automatically looks for the following: the type of humor which is how subject and tone fails expectation.

But the switch happens automatically as the point of view is revealed to be Hamlet talking to Ophelia -- yes, that Hamlet, and that Ophelia.

The characters act out of character to the play when Hamlet asks Ophelia on "What kind of pencil shall I use?" to draw a sketch, "2B or not 2B?"  The reference being to Hamlet's famous soliloquy.

How much of Hamlet does a reader have to know about Hamlet to understand this?  Not much.  How much does a reader have to know about pencils in order to find this humorous -- a lot more than knowing Hamlet.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Analysis of "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman

Original poem reprinted online here: "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" by Walt Whitman
Originally read: May 31, 2013
More information about the Poet: Walt Whitman

 The poem is composed of two quatrains even though it's one stanza.  There's a sense of observation and response where the speaker in the first stanza observes, and simply states what he observed, and then the response is a little more complicated.

So with the first four lines:

     When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
     When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
     When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
     When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,

The anaphora of "when" sets up a build up of the scene, and character.  "When" refers to a time, place, and scene, but also informs the reader that there's an observation going on.  When I "heard," "was shown" and "heard" again. 

The observations start out with the person presenting, "heard the learn'd astronomer," then escalates to objects, "proofs, figures, charts, and diagrams" that prove analyze what's above.  So far the speaker is objective.

Then the last line of the four lines focuses on the after effects, the "applause in the lecture room."  Here the speaker is objective as well, but note how the final line of the repeating lines focuses on the applause, and not the proofs or the astronomer.  This foreshadows what the speaker is going to focus on.

     How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
     Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself
     In the mythical moist night-air, and from time to time,
     Look'd up in the perfect silence at the stars.

Going backwards, note how the speaker feels more comfortable in the "silence at the stars" and alone.  There's an implication a rivalry between silence and applause from the speaker's vantage point.

In the second to last line, note the choice of "mythical" in the poem.  Here, with this single word, casts aside the first four lines that deal with "proof" and "charts and diagrams," -- and here the speaker feels comfortable to announce himself in this situation.

Because, based on the second line of the second quatrain, the speaker was put off by the lecture -- note how the focus is here on the verbs "rising," "gliding" and "wander'd" and how the speaker is in movement rather than stationary and distant.

"unaccountable" "tired" and "sick"in the first line of the quatrain are all actions that the speaker is feeling after the lecture.  It's the applause and the atmosphere that causes him to be "tired" and "sick" -- but "unaccountable" is an interesting word choice.  Here, when the speaker states he's unaccountable, it seems that the speaker sees himself as unimportant and unexplained and finds solace in the "mythical" and the still unexplainable, "perfect silence of the stars."  A regret of absolute knowledge.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Analysis of "Demonstrated Melancholy" by Nate Pritts

Original poem reprinted online here: "Demonstrated Melancholy" by Nate Pritts
Originally read: May 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Nate Pritts

So I just read Nate Pritts bio on Poetry Foundation, and, yes, this poem harkens back to the humor and play of Frank O' Hara, but this poem has something different about it.  Not really like a sinister undertone per se, but this poem definitely straddles the line between actually saying something too serious and/or mocking the subject too hard.

With the first stanza, the speaker dictates a sense of command with, "I would like to request a volunteer. / Please raise your hand" and this is normal enough, but then there are requirements that don't necessarily contrast each other, but brings new perspective on the requirements.  For example, "only if you are a lovely singer / in possession of your own voice."  There's a physical requirement, but also the idea of possession and ownership comes into question; however, these ideas shouldn't be thought about too long because the next requirement comes in.

"Please raise your hand only if your hand / is actually a sunflower."  The key word here is "actually" there's as though to state, "don't look into the metaphors, just enjoy the surreal and the language."  But in doing so, my mind is like, "there must be something more there."

Yet the commands and the tone of the poem shifts quickly with the focus back to the "I," "I need help reconstructing these crayons / that broke in half after she told me / what I kept drawing wasn't right enough."  So at this point there's something weird that happens -- there's a narrative which attempts to justify the requests, but then the narrative edges on being too serious, "I was trapped in a mythical past; I was imagining / an improbably future."  and "I am going to put you in this box / & prove that I understand the finality / of separation." 

The lines I quoted has emotion weight behind the logic with the diction of "trapped" and "separation" ; however, the tone reverts back to the "you" with, "You're going to need to bring some replacement parts / for the parts of you damaged in the performance."  Past me stated that the return to this tone is "extended humor -- turn of the surreal onto the normal to the surreal line."

 However, current me sees this as, well, as the title stated "demonstrated melancholy" -- not only is the tone different, but the situation, the style, the focus, changes without being too dramatic or point out "hey this is melancholy."  What this poem does is tie in these elements so they seem connected, but not really.  The poem can make a "strong point" if it goes in one direction, but doesn't.  The questions for me isn't "why."  The question for me is "how far can these threads separate and weave together before the construction falls apart?"

So back to the poem.  The "you" and the "I" are established and working on a surreal performance,  these four lines play with the humor, but also the seriousness the poem has brought up:

     & when you disappear you will need to yell
     indicating to the congregation

     that you are disappearing.  Can you yell
     frantically?  I may need to say "I am in love with you"

The diction of congregation has a religious quality to it which is somewhat dispensed with the idea of the "you" disappearing -- the actual trick, not the metaphor.  However, there's the lines, "Can you yell / frantically? I may need to say 'I am in love with you'" has this weird surreal effect in which the speaker plays on the emotional weight.  On one hand, the "you" is going through something probably horrible, but the "you" is the manifestation of the "I" which places weight with him probably needing to say, "I am in love with you."

But before these ideas could be expounded on the couplet undercuts the intent, "but trust me: it's only temporary.  When I snap / my fingers, you'll wake up & forget all this."  Past me was pretty angry when I got here, "cop out ending, but the focus is on the 'magic' aspect -- surreal, illusionary."

Current me though understands that the final lines are the ultimate act of melancholy -- the actual ultimate trick is that the meaning of the "you" shifts from the illusory to the self-reflective.  In that when the speaker writes about "you" is referring to "I." 

How did I come to this conclusion?  The "you" disappears two lines before -- then what is left?  The "I" and remnants of the "you" that needs to forgot; therefore, the greater impact is to the speaker on multiple levels.

The poem stops at the time before any recognition could be found which is a cop out in a sense, but the more "realistic" the more "actual" ending.  Escape from the situation, is sometimes abrupt. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Analysis of "I Went into the Maverick Bar" by Gary Snyder

Original poem reprinted online here: "I Went into the Maverick Bar" by Gary Snyder
Originally read: May 29, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gary Snyder

I'm actually surprised by the amount of scholarship about this poem:  Modern American Poetry, and also there are a lot of analysis as well -- not so much on the line level, but mostly what this poems about:  Poetry Reflections, Cece Poetry, and this blog.

The overarching idea that the scholarship and the analysis discuss is the idea of social constructs: whether the social construct refer to Lenin with "real work" or trying to assimilate in -- the strong point of this poem is the observation and then what to do about what the speaker observes.

The  first part of the poem is a narrative in which the speaker is specific about places and action.  The introduction of the speaker happens in the first stanza.  The speaker specifies where he is located ," Maverick Bar / In Farmington, New Mexico," and what he is doing, "drank double shots of bourbon / backed with beer." 

This line from the first stanza has been poured over to find meaning, "I'd left the earring in the car," this line more than likely refers to the speaker's earring.  There could be hidden ramifications to wearing an earring at a bar, being called names, loss of masculinity, etc.  But simply, the action is trying to hide something, but keep himself in order to just have a drink.

The second stanza focuses more on what's happening at the bar, "Two cowboys did horseplay / by the pool tables,"  past me noted this a "men action," and "A waitress asked us / where are you from?" I noted this as "woman question." 

However, looking back, I feel that I was overreaching in the wrong areas here.  Note that there's the "us" in the line; however, there is no mention of another in the first part.  Who is the other?  An observer just like the speaker, who overhears the song play Okie from Muskogee "'We don't smoke Marijuana in Muskokie'"  A cultural reference, but that's not the main focus of the poem, but the undercurrent of the scene.

In the third stanza, the observation is to the couple dancing  like in the past, with a sense of "short-haired joy and roughness." which the speaker, "recalled when I worked in the woods / and the bars of Madras, Oregon."  Note that it's the same joy, regardless of location and time, and New Mexico, and Oregon.

And this is the core, I feel, of the poem, and not so much the, "America--your stupidity / I could almost love you again," which has powerful sentiment, but the backdrop to this sentiment is what's more important.  For this instant, the speaker is appropriating a certain emotion, joy, with two different situations, and by doing so the very thing he fell out of love with -- anger and tenderness -- is forgotten for a second for this joy.  Note, how in unison this stanza and the next stanza in relation to line breaks.  The first two stanza seemed a bit awkward, but once the speaker thinks about the situation -- the lines are still jagged, a bit on opposition, but it's in a pattern -- something recognizable.

But the stanza break refocuses the scene back to the speaker because the "we" has left the bar, "In the shadow of bluffs / I came back to myself."  The last two lines are also analyzed (probably better) by scholars and analyzers alike, "To the work, to / What is to be done.'" 

Yeah, I don't know where the extra ' " ' is relating to and it's probably a glitch on the site, but I'm not sure because the Poetry Foundation link is the only copy I have of the poem.  Anyway, past me was trying to find out what "work" meant "escape from the past? Ars poetica"  Is the work "hopeful."  And the idea is so broad that I imagine any interpretation would work for the poem.  But from this reading, I feel work regards to going back to the self and refocus on what "work" means -- the type of work that can work with two different ideas in a pattern.  The kind of work that the speaker finds as an obligation, "is to be done" but is going forward with it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Analysis of "Metamorphosis" by James Richardson

Original poem reprinted online here: "Metamorphosis" by James Richardson
Originally read: May 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Richardson

There's a little blurb on the site where Richardson explains, "'In Ovid, desire can change anyone into...anything. In the supermarket, it happened just the way the poem says: I’m afraid I met her eyes an instant too long. (When I glimpsed the same woman a few weeks later she didn’t look like my mother at all.)'"

And I'm glad I read this, and in some ways I'm not so glad.  I want to refer to this article here, "Based on a True Story. Or Not" by Kathleen Rooney where I found this quote relevant to this poem in particular, "In short, if we are angered, confused, or disappointed upon discovering that a poem we took as autobiographical is not, then whose liability is that? If we feel as though we’ve somehow been cheated, is that on us? I’d argue that it probably is"

So the article mostly talks about how the reader interprets the author's work as autobiographical, and how the reader sees the work written in first person.

However, I felt the reverse with this poem.  I was more disappointed that this was autobiographical than not.

The situation is so mundane, but the thoughts are so complex in the poem that giving it a personal attribute detracts from the expansion of the metaphors -- or rather, each image means something on a personal level when I saw the poem as a comment on loss.

In the first line the speaker addresses the mom in a straight forward manner, "The week after you died, Mom," but then next couple of lines go a surreal by forcing the "mom" character into existence:

     you were in my checkout line,
     little old lady who met my stare
     with the fear, the yearning
     of a mortal chosen by a god,

Some notes about these lines, note that the introduction of the "I" speaker has him in a "checkout" line -- the diction foreshadows his further escape from reality when he describes the "mom" figure as an old lady, a mortal chosen by god."  The "chosen by god" line holds duplicitous intent with being "the one" of importance and in death.

The last three lines tells me more about the speaker instead of the "mom" figure:

     feeling herself change
     painfully cell by cell
     into a shadow, a laurel, you, a constellation.

The surreal is happening within the mind of the speaker as the reference to "painfully cell by cell" brings a sense that the death of the mother happened through something cancerous, but here the cells are changing into something different, beautiful, too quickly.  The shadow could correspond to the Jungian shadow, but also to the beginning of the transformation positive or negative.  The laurel could be reference to plaudits or a funeral.  You is so direct, but who is the "you" referring to -- the mom, the old lady, or the audience.

Constellation is the most concrete image here -- something beyond and expansive, and far away from the original image.

Lastly I do want to write this which I didn't write earlier -- because the poet admitted the autobiographical nature of the poem, I am disappointment on how I read the images, but that doesn't mean that this poem is powerful regardless of autobiography.  I am mostly disappointed in myself.  What's new?
 desire can change anyone into...anything. In the supermarket, it happened just the way the poem says: I’m afraid I met her eyes an instant too long. (When I glimpsed the same woman a few weeks later she didn’t look like my mother at all.)"
- See more at:

"In Ovid, desire can change anyone into...anything. In the supermarket, it happened just the way the poem says: I’m afraid I met her eyes an instant too long. (When I glimpsed the same woman a few weeks later she didn’t look like my mother at all.)"
- See more at:

"In Ovid, desire can change anyone into...anything. In the supermarket, it happened just the way the poem says: I’m afraid I met her eyes an instant too long. (When I glimpsed the same woman a few weeks later she didn’t look like my mother at all.)"
- See more at:

"In Ovid, desire can change anyone into...anything. In the supermarket, it happened just the way the poem says: I’m afraid I met her eyes an instant too long. (When I glimpsed the same woman a few weeks later she didn’t look like my mother at all.)"
- See more at:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Analysis of "Heights of Folly" by Charles Simic

Original poem reprinted online here: "Heights of Folly" by Charles Simic
Originally read: May 27, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Simic

So the title foreshadows a sense of tragedy and a sense of the hyperbole.  Heights of folly relates to the idea of hamartia -- the tragic flaw.  And through the title, the flaw could be an overly naive sense of place.  The first line harkens back to a more naive person, "O Crows circling over my head and cawing!"  Two things of note here, the usage of "O" in the beginning references both the time frame and sense of the naive; furthermore, the seen punctuated with an exclamation brings a sense of importance to the scene -- the crows circling above the head and cawing isn't a great sign.

The first stanza plays with this foreboding doom, "I admit to being, at times, / Suddenly, and without the slightest warning".  The understatement at the end of the line "without the slightest warning" coupled with the stalling words forces the reader to think the last line as a turn.  Why take so long to make the point of being, "Exceedingly happy."  Yes, I know the time frame adds to the naive nature of the speaker, but the second and third line do present that sort of risk that is similar to what the speaker is ignoring.

The next stanza focuses on action -- with being oblivious to the background of, "On a morning otherwise sunless," and "Past some gallows-shaped trees" which have high symbolism of sunless and gallows.  The action is "Strolling arm in arm [...] / With my dear Helen, / Who is also a strange bird."  See, now the focus here is the identity of the speaker who is, I think is Faust. 

Yes the reference could be to Menelaus, Helen's husband, or even Helen's father, Tyndareus, but after rereading this -- there is no absolute identifying figure.  However, the tragedy that is present to the reader, but not present to the speaker seems to follow the storyline of Faust.  Plus the sense that the speaker has a sense of the naive fits with how Faust was in the beginning of the play.

So when we get to the last stanza focuses on future expectation.  Here the speaker is being summoned for "breakfast on slices of watermelon / In the company of naked gods and goddesses / On a patch of last night's snow."  Note, that I didn't mention "urgently" in his actions because the speaker disregards the feeling and focuses on what should be in front of him -- exposed virtues regardless of snow, and crows, and gallows-shaped trees.

Why is the speaker not specifically identified though? He is the every man.  And although I see the speaker as Faust, the reader is not pressured to know who the speaker is in order to "get" the poem.

Tragedy, in theory, should reflect a person's failed experience by means of hamartia.  Everyone has been naive about love one time or another, and ignored the signs in which things could go terribly wrong.  But hindsight is always 20/20.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Analysis of "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright

Original poem reprinted online here: "Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio" by James Wright
Originally read: May 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Wright

"Implication mental / Physical description."  The poem reads as a physical description of a town in which seems domestic until the end and urban.

In the first stanza, the name of the location "Shreve football stadium,"  brings a direct place to mind.  That, even though the poem, could go general -- the location humanizes the poem in the first line.  In the second line the "I think" is a bold move since introducing the speaker in such a mundane way either emphasizes the speaker or detracts from the scene.  In this case, there's a detraction of the scene, but not necessarily in a bad way.  There's a sense of memory.  This is what the speaker thinks of, "Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville, / And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace of Benwood, / And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel."

Note how the speaker appropriates place with types of people.  Titansville have Polacks nursing a beer.  The key here is "nursing" where the diction indicates either drinking too much or drinking to save time and money -- probably both.  Also note the characterization of drinking applies to both place and people.

"Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood," is more of a place image.  These people exist here.  The word "negroes" indicate more of a time-frame to the speaker.  Although, I was caught off guard by the language here.  In this case, there's a sense that the speaker is talking about a specific time as well as a specific place and the specific way to look at time, place, and people.

"Ruptured night watchmen of Wheeling Steep," ruptured is just a strange adjective to place with night watchman.  The physical description is disturbing to say the least; however, with the adjective the poem hints a sense of the mind -- of wants which is clarified with "Dreaming of heroes."

These people are looking for more -- looking for someone to look up to.  And the first line of the next stanza plays with the expectation, "All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home."  Now, here's a place where it's ambiguous but personal.  In the first stanza, the people are defined by the place and the job -- providing a sense of importance, but at "home" they are shamed.  Furthermore, the "woman" cluck like "starved pullets / dying for love."  Note that the line "Dying for love--" turns the experience to the domestic situation.  Everyone -- the "fathers" and the "mothers" have problems that are talked about on the surface, but not delved into which works in this poem because of a transition.

"Therefore,"  an equation.

"Therefore" indicates that the previous stanzas add up to these last three lines:

     Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
     At the beginning of October,
     And gallop terribly against each other's body

The adjective/noun combination in the first line, and the verb/adverb combination changes the poem from a cycle poem to a downward spiral.  The "suicidally beautiful" line refers how the sons grow up -- beauty at the cost of self.  I'm not too sure about the October line, but the specific time frame follows the start of high school football.  And then the last line which has, "gallop terribly" which might bring up a reference to horses, and maybe a little of war -- the terms are loaded, but not anchored (like the place).  When they go against their bodies, they are wrecking each other, so there's a sense that these "sons" destroy each other inside and out for the sake of vicarious heroism.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Analysis of "Day's End" by Tu Fu

Original poem reprinted online here: "Day's End" by Tu Fu
Originally read: May 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Tu Fu

At the end of this poem I wrote, "cynicism? / sincerity?"  And, although the last line is very loaded -- "and for what?"  The progression the poem takes questions the intent of the speaker. 

In these two quatrains, the first stanza hints at a return, "Oxen and sheep were brought back down / Long ago, and bramble gates closed."  Note how the line reinforces two ideas -- the return and never exiting.  The animals were brought in long ago, and the gates closed behind them.  Now, this doesn't seem like much, but in a sparse poem, every image stands out, meanwhile, every action is buffered in this poem since the sentence construction is written in the passive.   Like my previous sentence.

The next line, "Over / Mountains and rivers, far from my old garden, A windswept moon rises into clear night."  The images of mountains, rivers, moon, and night are vivid detailing the scene, and in this line the speaker somewhat introduces himself in the line "my old garden."  Note that the moon rises and is strongest visual image among the rest because the action and placement happens last in the stanza.

In the second stanza, the first line, "Springs trickle down dark cliffs, and autumn dew fills ridgeline grasses." The stronger image is Spring (whatever the word conjures up) and "Autumn dew."  But also note the progression of time and how the images are based on water "trickle" and "dew" as though entering and receding like the speakers hair.

The color of the hair (not so much the hairline) is written about -- "whiter in lamplight."  So note that the speaker is in some kind of darkness and the illumination of that single image -- the hair comes into focus -- white. 

The last line, "The flame flickers / Good fortune over and over -- and for what?" is what confuses me still.  The flame flickering seems analogous to the good fortune, but the question at the end -- I don't know the tone of it.  So, well, I'll break down why I think it's one or the second tone, but not both.

Cynical -- Everything is the past is made up of images that is now gone or receding.  The moon, the mountains, the cows and the oxen overtake the poem, but for what?  To hide the fact that these animals and actions mean nothing to the speaker and is now contemplating what matters.

Genuine -- the images are what the speaker remembers the most.  The images are so strong that they overshadow the speaker's ego, and so when the speaker sees good fortune within the flickering flame, the speaker questions the self rather than the images -- those are genuine and real, what am I?

Yeah, I don't know if this makes sense.  It probably doesn't.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Analysis of "The Dusk of Horses" by James Dickey

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Dusk of Horses" by James Dickey
Originally read: May 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Dickey

Written in unrhymed tercets, the poem plays with image of horses, but I feel the images play a smoke and mirror role, especially the color play of green and white, when the diction brings a deeper sense in the poem. 

Starting with the opening stanza, the focus here is on the "green / of the field."  Why not "green field"?  The separation of the adjective and noun brings a sense of distance between color and image so the speaker could expand upon the metaphor.  This distance is further played on with the direct narrative of "something fallen from the sky. / They see this, and put down / Their long heads deeper in grass."

There's an ambiguous set up with the next line, "That only just escapes reflecting them."  I assuming, "that" refers to the grass, but since there's an ambiguous situation regarding the noun, the verb "escapes" comes to the forefront -- the diction indicates something more serious; however, when the same type of denotation appears in "The color green flees over the grass / like an insect, following the red sun over/ The next hill."  The idea of "fleeing" has a context to more of a child-like bewilderment to focus more on the images and how they intertwine and shift.

The color "green" shifts in to "white" and then the rhetoric in the next lines hint at something deeper, "There is no cloud so dark and white at once; / There is no pool at dawn that deepens / Their faces and thirsts as this does."  The use of the semi-colon forces a relation between the usage of color (or the lack thereof) and the invisible deepness of faces and thirsts -- conceptual ideals. 

To break away from the rhetoric the speaker states the time, "Now" (which will come up further in the poem) -- "Now they are feeding on solid / Cloud"  here the images have been so concrete that the transition to the surreal jolts the reader. We know the time, but the land as well as the horses have changed, "With nails as silent as stars among the wood / Hewed down years ago and now rotten, / The stalls are put up around them."

Here's another smoke and mirrors device happening here.  Note how the language in the first line compiles pretty complex similes, "as silent as stars among the woods" and even though this seems like it should have great impact in the stanza (which it does) -- the simple declarative statement of "The stalls are put up around them" is a concrete announcement of limitations, yet still the horses, "Not touching it, they sleep / No beast ever lived who understood / What happened among the sun's fields."

"Lived who understood"  This is the message, I think, the speaker is trying to get at.  Yes there's an interplay of colors of green to white which could come as a symbol of the strife; however, the direct being overshadowed by the techniques brings a different element to the limitation -- as if "horses" are looking for something bigger than "something fallen from the sky" to actually do something.

"On the four taxed, worthy legs. / Each thinks he awakens where / The sun is black on the rooftop."  The play in color here changes from green, to white, to black -- so visually there's a sequence which is tinged with the idea of "Each thinks he awakens."  The speaker indicates that there's a false awakening, that, "the green is dancing in the next pasture."

The repetition of the beginning scene but worded differently in the following stanzas in how the horses sleep, but "In a cloud, or a risen lake" or pretend to sleep "when led, / And thus to go under the ancient white / of meadow, as green goes."  In either case there's always a return to sleep and the reasons and the colors now turn into a safe place that the horses (and readers) can keep track.  But colors are just colors.

The last two lines, "Holding stars and rotten rafters, / Quiet, fragrant, and relieved" has a sense of cynicism here.  Note that these lines refer to the previous stanza of "With nails as silent as stars among the wood / Hewed down years ago and now rotten."  The limitations are there but aren't stated in the next line -- rather the limitations are forgotten and what's left is emotion "Quiet, fragrant, and relieved." Bliss in ignorance?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Analysis of "In a Dark Time" by Theodore Roethke

Original poem reprinted online here: "In a Dark Time" by Theodore Roethke
Originally read: May 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Theodore Roethke

The rhyme scheme for these sestets are kind of off.  The last couplets for each stanza have monosyllabic apparent rhymes; meanwhile, the abba rhyme scheme for the first four lines of each stanza are off.  Not exact rhymes, not even sight rhymes, but connected through a single letter like a strong "r" or an "n."  And even then I feel like I'm stretching the form of the poem like in the first line of this poem, "In a dark time, the eye begins to see."  The speaker isn't necessarily in the dark -- the focus here is a time frame that is described as dark in which the speaker meets his "shadow" in the deepening, "shade."  All these references allude to a direct Jungian psychology.  The speaker is meeting the hidden self.

Yet the meeting in itself is framed within repetition ("I hear my echo in the echoing wood--")  and displacement, "I live between the heron and the wren, / Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den."  The speaker places himself in the middle of these repetitions and oppositions to be able to see and observe on both, and then remark.

"What's madness but nobility of soul / At odd with circumstance?"  A strong rhetoric line, but not necessarily the core of the poem.  The poem plays with the idea of madness and circumstance like how the poem plays on the idea of shadow, repetition and displacement -- cursory.  Cursory so that can remark and also comprehend what is going on, "I know the purity of pure despair," or the next line, "That place among the rocks--is it a cave / Or winding path?"  And since the poem is more allusive heavy, I'm feeling the cave image here refers to the allegory of the cave, and the winding path here refers to "The Road Not Taken" by Frost.  Or it could be.  The rate the speaker spirals between techniques.

Then exclamations.  The opposing nature images are starting to become more apparent as the setting of the night continues on.  "A steady storm of correspondences!"  Who is corresponding?  That doesn't matter actually -- what matters is the speaker is interpreting the experiences further into the night.  Gone  are the questions in the third stanza (which echos the first) rather the speaker appropriating the rhetoric to his purpose, "A man goes far to find out what he is--" and what he's going through, "Death of the self in a long, tearless night / All natural shapes blazing unnatural light."

And when the rhymes hit, they hit as a sort of anchoring device in the poem.  The couplet refocuses the speaker's madness, but then sanity is lost again each stanza, "Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire."  The alliteration of this first line pounds in the mixture of light and darkness, and the soul.  And the rhetorical question, "Which I is I?" in its earnestness and vulnerability is punctuated by the last two lines which doesn't answer the question.

"The mind enters itself, and God the mind, / And one is One, free in the tearing wind."  Note how the last two lines uses most of the techniques announced in the poem, repetition, displacement through connotation, image, self and in doing so repeats and condenses the cycle of doubt.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Analysis of "At the Archaeological Institute of America's Annual Meeting" by Ernest Hilbert

Original poem reprinted online here: "At the Archaeological Institute of America's Annual Meeting" by Ernest Hilbert
Originally read: May 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ernest Hilbert

So I didn't know this was a variation on the sonnet form until I read his bio.  Then I scanned the poem, and saw how the variations fit with the idea of the poem -- a sort of befuddled chaos of a colony of academics trying to figure out their place in history, "O, ungrateful hordes! Archaeologists / Mill through the hotel lobby". 

Well, maybe not as grandeur, but the form (which I think resembles an Elizabethan sonnet because of the couplet at the end) shows the attempt to contain the humor and seriousness of the situation of "metaphorical action to stay in Academia, parallel to the work Archaeologists should be doing."

Past me put down basically, "archaeology should be doing" because their action is compounded with the accenting verbs to create a sense of importance in the line, but the actions are so trivial, "Clogging doorways, aiming all ways, vaguely / Swerving clots of unflappable classicists" (bolding mine)  Even though the lines create humor due to the language ("unflappable classicists" sounds nice sonically, and act contrary to the scene), there the sense of the lost here -- regardless if there's grace under pressure or prestige from the ivory tower.

The transition of "while" in the next line refocuses the chaos to the "counterparts," "[...] undertakers /  Are busy burying, they burrow to see /  What's still down there. "Note that this is the perspective of someone in the field.  How observant the undertakers are, well they actually "think" rather than just be "like jammed cars."

So what do the undertakers think of Archaeologists? "Set of character would meddle with tombs / Of emperors, queens and great poets!"  The diction here is precise.  When the speaker mentions "great poets" the door constricts by adding the literary academia into the poem -- more congestion into traffic.

The last five lines shows the actions of the "Archaeologists" judged from the perspective of undertakers:

     They hunt all summer long the long interred,
     Gather smashed shields, pry seals from anterooms,
     Blow dust from sherds, dive to black ships.
     Veering, talk to talk, they discuss ancient glory,
     Building careers, then joining their quarry. (bolding mine).

Once again the actions the archaeologists take are accented at the beginning of the line as though to bring attention and importance to what they do.  I feel the accented first lines also change the humor from a distanced humor based on perpendicular thoughts, to the classic definition of comedy when
the tragic goes full circle.

Look at the actions of the "archaeologists," "gather," "blow," and "veer" in which the actions are meant to preserve items and themselves.  What about the verbs like to "think" like the undertakers do, or better yet "explore," or worse, "learn."  These are actions not taken.

Instead with the sherds (fragments) they collect, they build their own careers their "glory," yet in doing so so they are as ineffective as their "quarry" -- yes the rhyme emphasizes the connection there of the disconnect between the past discards and future immortality.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Analysis of "Teach me I am forgotten by the dead" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Original poem reprinted online here: "Teach me I am forgotten by the dead" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Originally read: May 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson

This poem is a set of rhetoric lines that interweave, counter, and support each other.  Now, why am I not reading an essay?  Well, this is sort of an essay in a way due to the overly rhetorical nature, but there's some play in here that kept me interested on the rhetorical strategies as though the speaker is logically trying to argue with a concept.

The first two lines "Teach me I am forgotten by the dead, An that the dead is by herself forgotten" is a play on logic where both sides forget each other, but have the knowledge of forgetting each other. These lines are curious though -- the logic is referencing the dead or a conflict of the "soul"

The speaker lays out his argument by casting away the big reasons, "murder, steal, or fornicate, / Nor with ambition break the peace of towns," What this line also does is buffer the sort of ludicrous conditions set in the beginning.    Because the focus is not about death, rather something else. 

And the "But I would bury my ambition / The hope & action of my sovereign soul / In miserable ruin." This is a tricky line which is the key to the poem.  Past me saw this line as a form of repression in which the speaker is the one in control and can repress the negatives because of his soul -- sort of a free will ideal.

Presently, I'm not sure about how the rhetoric of this line works.  Butting up against such big negatives, my assumption is that when the speaker compares his ambition to the negatives he's trying to show the logical fallacy of lumping ambitions together -- "murder, steal, or fornicate," lumped in with "hope & action" could be chastised as similar.

As the poem further progresses there are jabs on the spiritual, "Nor a hope / should ever make a holiday for me" this could be seen as a jab on religion but also self-importance.  Praise "x." 

Then the jabs continue with the repetition of "I would not,"  "I would not be the fool of accident / I would not have a project seek an end / That needed aught."  Past me noted that the short line has a certain bite and power behind it because the speaker is trying to define his beliefs -- "fool of accident" reversed is the "scholar of purpose"  and the "project seek an end" reversed is "project seeks to explore limitlessness."   These are more arguments of control and free will as I see it.

I don't understand these lines though, but I'll try:

     Beyond the handful of my present means
     The sun of Duty drop from his frimament
     To be a rushlight for each petty end

The mood of these lines have a very cynical twist to them if I get this correctly.  Duty is capitalized which is more of the idea of "destiny" -- it's the duty to fufill what is needed, also "his" if referring to "a higher being" is lower cased so the focus is on "Duty."  Also note that the speaker is putting himself in the conversation as limited.

And through these limitations he's still able to choose, "I would not harm my fellow men / On the low argument, 'twould harm myself."  The last lines could be seen as anti-violence/war, but the focus here is on the thought process of the speaker.  Regardless of how "high" he thinks, the low argument -- the simple argument, the argument based on a selfish personal reason: logically, I'd harm myself.  I thought this through, and I know -- not because of some Duty in some higher spiritual sense.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Analysis of "The Young Husband" by Marianne Boruch

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Young Husband" by Marianne Boruch
Originally read: May 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Marianne Boruch

 The poem is written in couplets which is quite fitting because the scene of the poem has to deal with a husband and wife having conversation with his wife.

But I do want to note the title first, "The Young Husband."  While husband is defined as is in the poem, "young" in all its denotations: like age and lack of experience gets explored in the poem. 

But the first couplet, "All vision is / peripheral: sideways, and under eave" comes off as didactic like the speaker is pointing out "though this is how you should read this poem -- this is the core of the poem."  The following is more of an exposition  -- "the young husband / on his cell to his wife, talking, smoking."

Here's where the poem starts to focus, "not talking, no longer waiting / to tell the strange part. / the funny part, not in that order."  Note, that through careful adjective the poem offsets each other to create a mystery -- whatever is being said, it's trying to connect to someone and order matters.

The next line, "Perphiral: loss of detail." Further complicates the poem through denotation that becomes personal with, "you kept telling me, and color,." 

The complexity is who is the "you" speaker, and who is the "me".  The assumption could be that  this is the young husband telling this tohis wife -- or that the poem is playing off the foreshadow of "strange part, funny part." 

Strange definitely follows after this line as there are fragments of, "True and true, and only true / my old enough to be / moved by anything."  They mystery transforms from what is the stuff he is saying, to what is the wife responding to.  The relationship, shown through fragments, isn't reciprocal because, weirdly, the husband has more to say and flounders; meanwhile, the wife is saying something, perhaps, but is silent.

Past me wrote this, "colloquial chit-chat.  Meaningful intent/meaningless words."  I agree in a sense that the intent is meaningful to one side, furthermore, the words are meaningful to the speaker,

     because no, they've
     been texting, because

     it's good to
     talk finally.

Note the word choice of talk, although would fit with colloquial sense of the poem, shows that one side is talking.  There is no conversation per se.

The fragments also form a sense of interruption as past me point out with the final couplet, "you, out of the weather still -- / the body loves that."  And without context to the conversation, there is only incoherent talk.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Analysis of "Muffin of Sunsets" by Elaine Equi

Original poem reprinted online here: "Muffin of Sunsets" by Elaine Equi
Originally read: May 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Elaine Equi

The poem opens up with the humorous line, "The sky is melting. Me too."  Furthermore, what the opening line does is create a hyperbolic analogy which the reader accepts when going forward with the poem. Therefore, the suspension of disbelief is stretched in the poem.

"Pink between the castlework / of  buildings."  The image has a strong sense of color but also note the "castlework" in which the word brings a sense of structural aesthetic to the building as well which is thrown off balance with the next stanza of, "pensive syrup / drizzled over clouds" which brings a humorous tension.  All these aspects brought in: hyperbole, humor, structure, image, foreshadows the split stanzas.

The stanzas are in couplets up to this point with the single line, "It is almost catostrophic how heavenly" pivoting the poem through the angular connotations of both catastrophe and heaven.  Yet in the tercet, "A million poets, at least, / have stood in the very spot, / groceries in hand, wondering:" has more of a direction and the hyperbole brings out the litotes here.  The end of the world type of idea along with daily routine.

The litotes becomes the humor (opposite of the hyperbole in the beginning) with the last couple thought, "'Can I witness the Rapture / and still make it home in time for dinner?'"  Note a couple of important things here.  Yes, there's an allusion to the biblical rapture through color.  And yes, this is the first instance of a rhetorical question in this poem and the second part is more normal which brings out the litotes.  But the most important aspect here is choice.  That the poet picking up groceries are more inclined to cook dinner than chronicle their thoughts on the end. 

And in a sense, this poem refers to poets as people first.  Or perhaps I'm looking too deeply at the hyperbole and litotes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Analysis of "In Portraits in Seasons" by Danielle Pafunda

Original poem reprinted online here: "In Portraits in Seasons" by Danielle Pafunda
Originally read: May 23, 2013
More information about the Poet: Danielle Pafunda

One of the notes I wrote for this poem was, "Eckphrastic -- look up."  I wanted to figure out if this poem related to an image; however, rereading this poem, the fragments construct the emotional impact of the poem, but I'm still curious on where the emotion is directed.

The opening couplet  starts out with the fragment "As a feral thing would."  Usually, I would try to connect the title in with the fragment, but their doesn't seem to be a logical syntactical connection between both.  Rather, there's two different moods going on. "In Portraits in Seasons" brings a more relaxed, visual mood; meanwhile, "As a feral thing would," contrasts the mood through tone -- a feral thing would do...what?  The speaker already has made a judgement on something.

The next line sort of focuses the line, "As a dead leaf / whose crunch she herself hears,"  The line brings the poem to the present, but also note that the "nature" image of "dead leaf" is heard by "she herself."  Syntactically the line acts both analogous and observant.  Yes, the she hears the crunch, but also herself is a diction choice that brings in (forcefully or subtly -- I haven't figured as much) another focus on the self.  And yet the next line doesn't interact with the previous one, "whose / buggy interior floods the sidewalk."  Whose interior?

The poem continues with disjointed fragments, and in the third stanza there's a focus on the you, "Where you've tucked your pen into your notes, / I tuck my fingernail,"  The disjointedness becomes a little more focused as opposition.  Why?  I'm not sure.  However, what the non-sequitur lines bring is a sense of confusion which amplifies the mood and tone of the poem.  If there's nothing left to rationally think of, think emotionally.

The speaker victimizes and describes herself with "burned and cursed and / shut tight my eyes.  I tuck my feet up like a girl."  Note the simile to a girl.  To me, there's such disdain in the tone due to the negative connotative words like "burned" and "cursed" before it. 

Then the subject switches forcing more of an analogous between the portrait and the herself with:

     In this corner, warm milk fall of light something

     far from revealing its bone-blank eyes, that is
     the eyes downcast in every portrait, shaded

     the ribbon a bright blue furl across the gaze,

This is the longest connective sentence in the poem.  With the opposition of the self set up as a backdrop to these lines -- the focus is what the "eyes" are doing.  They are bone-blank and down cast in every portrait, every iteration of the image.  Furthermore, "the ribbon a bright blue furl across the gaze" feels like a hindering device, but rather the furl exposes characters.

The peculiar mother, and a naked toddler the fall of light "Betrays nothing."  The brevity of the line and the confidence centers the poem to that moment.  This moment of mother and toddler is expected, however, the "book in / hand, betrays"  The book in hand betrays.  The artifice betrays the moment just like the view and the actual of the self.

The last line, "I shred its binding and burn through it for warmth."  Primarily focuses on the destruction of the artifice, the book.  Rather than confidence, I feel more of a forlorn from the line.  Mostly because the line is isolated, and also the build up of disjointedness comes to a realization in which burning, like the image of the self, is the only response.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Analysis of "Women Like Me" by Wendy Rose

Original poem reprinted online here: "Women Like Me" by Wendy Rose
Originally read: May 22, 2013
More information about the Poet: Wendy Rose

Usually, I have an apprehension to defining poems about the self.  The poems that ultimately go "I am a man, a firefighter, a husband, a cactus, a dog, I am a proud man."  "Women Like Me" is not one of these poems.  It's a definition of the self poem of course, but the style of the poem, the continuous barrage of rhetorical questions does not lead to confidence of one self, rather the deconstruction (and knowledge) of one self into generic terminology and pieces.

The first part of the poem has the title blend into the poem "making promises they can't keep."  Already with the negative connotation there's something amiss -- what are the promises? In this first part the question isn't explored; however what is explored is the image of the Grandmother who has, "invading burr and thistle from your [her] skin."  The images turn surreal but then ground themselves on an emotional endpoint, "to restore you happy and proud, / the whole of you transformed / and bursting into tomorrow."

Bringing the old into the new.  And the trajectory of this poem could go to how the speaker knows how to get there, but more intriguingly, the majority of the rest poem reassures the speakers lack of confidence on how to get there.  "But where do I cut first / Where should I begin to pull?"  Since the terms here are a bit general, specificity really stands out, "Russian thistle", "African senecio"  these images can correlate not only to the plants, but also the background of the grandmother, and the speaker. 

And to ensure the focus stays with the speaker, the following violently laced rhetorical questions become personal:

     [...] Or the middle finger
     of my right hand?  Or my left eye
     or the other one?  Or a slice
     from the small of my back, a slab of fat
     from my thigh?  I am broken
     as much as any native ground,
     my roots tap a thousand migrations.

The lines about specific body parts are disturbing, and as the sequence get more precise on where to slice, the speaker, coincidentally, compiles all the parts together then states, "I am broken."  A bit cliche, but the next line could be over the top "as much as any native ground."  I wrote could because the focus isn't on the speaker at this point -- slyly, the focus is on "any" which refers not only the speaker but also the background which is foreshadowing (the next line, "my roots tap a thousand migrations" bluntly does as well) the generational discourse. 

The focus is the next lines shift tone and blame, first there's line about daughters never born, then the speaker feels like an "invader,"  then the speaker asks over arching rhetorical questions, "Who should be rooted, who pruned, / who watered, who picked?"  The lines seem to be driven more emotionally and it's one of the reasons as well I'm apprehensive about definition poems like these -- sometimes the emotions overtake the poem and there's a lack of focus.  An unfocused definition of the self, I feel, should be explored more to make a stronger point than just "I'm a mess and I don't know who I am."

But these moments in the poem happen, as they should, to strengthen images like this, "Should I feed the white-faced cattle / who wait for the death train to come / or comb the wild seeds from their tails."  The previous mess adds to the misdirection, and the image, I think, is strong enough to carry the mess and not be over taken by it.  After rereading the poem again, it's 50/50 working for me.  But I appreciate justifiable risks than aimless risks.

But then there's lines like, "or the world before this one / or the Mother Ground?" which make me cringe because "Mother" anything is the go to word that wants to encompass all women.  Nothing against the term "Mother" but after a while I want something more other than "Mother" or better yet, "Gaea" to appropriate these types of experience.  The violence, although uncomfortable, felt more personable versus the overreaching terms, although safe, seems more preachy.

In any case, the poem ends with this rhetorical question, "Who should be the sterile chimera of earth and of another place, / alien with a native face, / native with an alien face?"  The adjective noun combination of "sterile chimera" can refer to the multiple backgrounds of the speaker, and the inability to have "daughters."  It's concise imagery.  Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the alien and the native punctuate the speaker's indecisiveness on how to go forward in a very visual signifier/signified world.