Original poem reprinted online here: "Indian Stream Republic" by Stephen Burt
Originally read: May 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Stephen Burt
This poem, in tercets, opens up with a very sentimental thought, "No one should be this alone--" which is a huge risk because I as a reader am searching (and dismissing) the emotional pull of the piece which may or may not go well. However, rereading this poem, this is the only place where the poem is sentimental and serves like the conclusion of the poem. What this poem does is goes from the current to the past in very formal language in order to earn the sentimental gambit stated in the beginning.
The change on how to read the poem happens in the third line with the image of "prepotent verticals". The mixture of choice diction and visuals refocuses the sentiment. In the second stanza the scene changes to the "present" in which there's a hunting lodge and moose at this area.
In stanza three this line, "as blue as if there had never been people / although there are people:" plays on the duality of this place. People should be here but they don't. This thought opens up the question based on the title "What is the connection between 'Indians' and this land?" the automatic assumption is that the Indians lost it through war or deal. But the focus here is the land being for people with no people.
The speaker then notes some very exact images, "evidence of more [people] / in clear vinyl sliding, and down the extended street / a ruddy street pole the height of a child" These aren't actual people, rather the speaker is attempting to anthropomorphize the land without action. These part are human, but these are only parts.
The clear focus is when the speaker read the plaque, "Liberty / at Indian Stream, 1832-1835." The specificity of the plaque and location (disputed boundaries / of Canada and New Hampshire) foreshadows a discussion about the past.
And with the following stanzas the speaker goes to specific details of what people could've had in the past, "one cow, one hog, one gun, / books, bedding and hay, seven sheep and their wool," Past me noted that the tone shifts slightly to an Encyclopedic tone. This Encyclopedic tone distances the speaker to the present, to the emotional center of "alone." And the further the speaker goes with the tone and plain stating the facts, the more emotional impact that first line has.
Especially the italicized part in which the people make a decree:
the people...do hereby mutually agree
to form themselves into a body politic
by the name of Indian Stream, and in that capacity
to exercise all the powers of a soverign
till such time as we can ascertain to what
government we properly belong.
Here the "alone" comes back around. Instead of the individual being alone, here a group of people don't "belong" and are searching for something to belong to. Past me noted that the core of the poem is "body politic."
Body politic ties in the land, the people who should be there but aren't, and the past. So when we get to the couplet at the end of this poem, what is missing? The sentimental emotional impact of loneliness.