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.

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