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.