Monday, December 30, 2013

Analysis of "The Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Harper Webb

Original poem reprinted online here:"The Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Harper Webb
Originally read: June 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Harper Webb


Tercets.  I don't know why I need to start out this way.  Anyway, the poem starts out in an narrative arc of exposition, narrative, second exposition, narrative.

The primary focus of the poem is how Santa Claus dies.  The first two stanzas explain the symptoms as, "chest pains for weeks / but doctor's don't make house / calls to the North Pole," and how Santa Claus addressed the symptoms, "he's let his Blue Cross lapse, / blood tests make him faint / hospital gowns always flap"  The continuation of excuses of why not to go.  Note how very real the speaker makes the character of Santa -- in the first two stanzas there's already a sense of urgency and fear in two different angles: chest pain (urgency and fear) and reasons not to go to the hospital (urgency and fear).

"it's only indigestion anyway" is the last excuse he makes.  Now we go to the scene where Santa dies, "he feels as if a monster fist / has grabbed his heart and won't / stop squeezing."  Past me noted the adjective as being specific.  But to what?  It is an adjective which stands out, but it's in a simile form to describe the pain most people won't be able to feel.

"He can't / breath, and the beautiful white / world he loves goes black,"  This is the description of the "death of Santa."  And yes there's the aftermath of Ms. Claus and the simile of Ruldoph's nose blinking like an ambulance; however, the shift is important here.  The shift between the narrative of Santa to the narrative of the eight year old speaker happens in the first line in the third to last stanza, "and in a tract house / in Houston, Texas." I point this out because it's not like a dream sequence or the speaker was thinking about how the death happen.  To this eight year old, this is more of a reasoning devise -- to fantasize how something died when, "stupid / kids at my school say Santa's a big / fake."

In the "real" sense,  Santa died because of a heart attack.  To the eight year old, the vision of Santa dies for him causes a heartache.  But the final person (hence the tercets) affected by the news is the mother who has, "tears / in her throat, the terrible / news rising in her eyes" who observes the "death" of a couple of things.  Her son growing up, and her son not believing -- she shares the pain of having "Santa" taking away from her son (she too must've experienced such knowledge), but also knows that changes -- based on the loss of belief -- will occur.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Analysis of "St. Joseph, Abscondus" by Robert Gibb

Original poem reprinted online here: "St. Joseph, Abscondus" by Robert Gibb
Originally read: June 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Gibb







It wasn't until I read his bio on wikipedia that I found out he's from Homestead, Pennsylvania.  That would make sense for the first stanza.  However, I wonder, did I need to know that Homestead is where he's from for this poem.  No not really.  "Homestead" is precise of a place which contrasts the religious imagery in the poem.

Past me wrote that the poem's structure was in tercets (up until the end) and this plays a part in the discussion of religion and place. 

In the first stanza, presents the disappearance of the saint, "He's missing from the only kind of heaven / We have left in Homestead"   -- the abscondus in the title refers to his disappearance as well.  And as if to eulogize him, the speaker takes the name of Saint Joseph, and describes him as a, "plate-headed saint / Who stood sentinel above Saint Micahels's,"

Note the initial description of "plate-headed" which is material based.  The concept will come up further in the poem.  Yet, on the second stanza, the description of St. Joseph continues, "Dozing on duty through the great dismantling / of the mills, and then that of the congregation,"  Note how the description of St. Joseph shows him being lackadaisical as everything and everyone leaves -- but he does his job theoretically,  St. Joseph watches like sentinel, but doesn't interfere.  Yet, "The days of solemn supplication piling up."  Who is the one asking for what?  To me, it's more of someone asking St. Joseph or rather anyone to do something.  The line opens up the poem to go beyond Saint Joseph.

"The diocese has been busy cutting losses ever since, / Saint Mary's the first to close, her biblical picture / Windows sold as well as the copper downspouts"  I feel this stanza is self explanatory in regards to what is happening -- no congregation, no money, no need for churches.  However, the implications behind these actions are here "abscondus."  It's not the lack of faith (that's apparent) rather, like Saint Joseph, the monetization descriptors come in. Yes, I know this stanza is about a church and not the actual Saint, but the description forces the image rather the action.  So far, the saints have been nothing more than images in which they are unable to do anything and are worth what they can be sold for.

"The basement now mosaiked with mold, / To which negligence you can add Saint Michael's, / Boarded up, its statue missing as if derelict."  Now here's the interplay between the trinity of Saint Joseph, Saint Mary, and Saint Michael.  All are introduced in the poem as objects -- descriptions for images.  And at the end of the poem, these saints are sold, or neglected, or looked upon as lazy -- not only by the speaker but by a "congregation" that has left.  However, the poem doesn't end here -- the "either/or" dynamic comes into play (where the second half of the "or" is the more important out of the two)

"Or salvaged from the masthead of the wreckage."  The reference to a sunken ship.  Here, the speaker is stating that something or someone could salvage these images, and perhaps the saints.  Or perhaps the most important part of this last line is the word "wreckage" -- a word which implies a destruction and, in the case of the poem, is caused by multiple saints, and multiple people leaving.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Analysis of "Distressful Homonyms" by Vikram Seth

Original poem reprinted online here: "Distressful Homonyms" by Vikram Seth
Originally read: June 29, 2013
More information about the Poet: Vikram Seth


The poem plays with homonyms, words that share the same spelling but different meanings, at the end of each line.  The couplet form limits the homonyms to two, but the stanzas are not end-stopped.

With the first three lines "Since for me you have no warmth to spare / I sense I must adopt a sane and spare / Philosophy"  the speaker sets himself up as someone going above.  here the other has "no warmth to spare" the speaker then turns to something sane -- of course philosophy.

"to ease a restless state / fueled by this uncaring. / It will state"  So here the homonyms are state as in a being, and state as in to talk -- as the poem goes further and further the more prophetic.

"A very meagre truth: love like the rest / Of our emotions, sometimes needs a rest."  The other is now more into focus.  The distress is caused by a lack of reciprocal love, and the speaker is trying to get beyond it.  However, the over-hammering of the couplets and the homonyms belies the undertone of a couple or maybe wanting the same.

"Happiness, too, no doubt, and so, why even / Hope that the course of true love can run even?"  Rest also applies to the concepts of "Happiness" "Hope" and "true love" -- the speaker admits the up and downs of love -- and questions if it "can run even" that there's a "rest" (a medium) in the roller coaster.


------------------------------

I chose this poem to see if I could get into the poem after some time.  Initially, I was interested in the techniques and how they're utilized.

I'm back and forth on this.  Yes, gimmicks like these allured me in the beginning.  But after reading the poem a couple more times -- the gimmick started to wear off on me, and the core of the poem is hollow and generic for me. 

Does this mean I think this is a "bad" poem?  No, what this means, I think, is this poem, has a shelf-life for me.  Or at least the gimmick using of homonyms at the end of lines and making the technique the central focus has a shelf-life for me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Analysis of "Fireside" by Seamus Heaney

Original poem reprinted online here: "Fireside" by Seamus Heaney
Originally read: June 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Seamus Heaney







A very loose Elizabethan sonnet, but the subject matter also has that very loose unknown quality to it.  Ephemeral, seen without definition.  Okay So we'll go quatrain at a time:

     Always there would be stories of lights
     hovering among bushes or at the foot
     of a meadow; maybe a goat with cold horns
     pluming into the moon; a tingle of chains

The first stanza is very image based; however, note the usage of the semi-colon to list how these stories occur.  In the first line there is the mention of lights and how the light reacts, "hovering among bushes," or "at the foot of a meadow," which tell location.  The goal line, "a goat with cold horns / pluming into the moon" feels like a reasoning line, but it's goes toward the absurd by the description, and "a tingle of chains" work as an auditory image that foreshadows a sense of the supernatural.

     on the midnight road.  And then maybe
     word would come round of that watery
     art, the lamping of fishes, and I'd be
     mooning my flashlamp on the licked black pelt

The midnight road adds time and tinge of supernatural which is then a bit added onto with the "word would come around," like some sort of tale to be told around the fireside -- not so much to scare, but of wonder (note nothing "horrifying" has been mentioned).  A wonder that transcends to water, "watery art,"  where the speaker goes searching with the flashlamp.

     of the stream, my left arm splayed to take
     a heavy pour and run of the current
     occluding the net.  Was that the beam
     buckling over an eddy or a gleam

Now there's a sense of fishing (compounded with the mention of "fishes" and water in the previous stanza).  The speaker has a net to try to catch all the fishes (or stories, or light). The last two lines of this stanza rhyme adding a sense of a folktale or something whimsical.

     of the fabulous? Steady the light
     and come to your senses, they're saying good-night.

So the couplet at the end introduces the "you" but I feel the usage refers to the speaker trying to not be mesmerized by the lights, and then quickly implies they are "saying good-night."  The ambitiousness of the saying could cut either way -- them leaving, or them being the last thing the speaker sees before leaving. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Analysis of "Clenched Soul" by Pablo Neruda

Original poem reprinted online here: "Clenched Soul" by Pablo Neruda
Originally read: June 27, 2013
More information about the Poet: Pablo Neruda






Each stanza has a sense of turmoil.  The push and pull of a relationship that's not really stated, but compared to.

With the first stanza, "We have lost even this twilight / No one saw us this evening hand in hand / while the blue night dropped on the world."  The setting of the poem starts at the loss of twilight, assuming that's the start of the day.  The speaker appropriates this moment to a "we" hand in hand.  The last image, "blue night dropped on the world" has foreboding undertone -- somewhat encompassing.

"I have seen from my window / the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops."  A visual stanza in which, note, the speaker is alone.  He is looking out.  And "fiesta" here is not my first inclination of a "party."  I think the word is more inclined to the definition of "religious festival."  Something more divine, but far away.

"Sometimes a piece of sun / burned a coin in my hand."  A surreal image.  At this point, it feels like each stanza (all self contained sentences) feel like they are talking about different things.  However, the speaker is piecing together the setting and himself -- either as the day continues or him looking back.  So the burning of the coin seems like the day is giving a painful fortune -- daylight brings in beauty, but the other leaves.

"I remembered you with my soul clenched / in that sadness that you know" gone are the images (note how concrete the images were in the beginning to get to this point) and the speaker professes a sadness -- not that the audience knows (hence the self contained stanzas feeling a bit off), but to an other that is a figment.  And with this figment, the speaker questions:

      Where were you then?
      Who else was there?
      Saying what?
      Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
      when I am sad and feel you are far away?

These questions are relationship questions based on trust and control.  What lead the speaker to this point -- a memory.  The speaker "remembered" the departing.  Posthumous questions or it might be the questions that drove the other away.  In any case, the shift in tone is more angry at the beginning, then shifts to loneliness with, "when I am sad and feel you are far away?"  Note that the key word is "feel" -- distance that is played throughout the poem.

"The book fell that always closed at twilight / and my blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet."  Here's where the images personify the speakers emotions.  The book fell more of an end of a book -- story.  The "blue sweater rolled like a hurt dog at my feet"  pained emotion in the objects.

"Always, always you recede through the evenings / toward the twilight erasing statues." The loss is there, but I questions what the statues are.  Yes, the statues are metaphorical; however, does the leaving always stay like the thought of erasing statues?  It's gone, it's gone, it's gone.
  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Analysis of "Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Original poem reprinted online here: "Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Originally read: June 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Aimee Nezhukumatathil


I envision this poem as an Italian sonnet.  not because of the fourteen lines, but because in the octave there's definitely a question (played with) and there's definitely an answer (serious in taking into consideration the humor).

The title isn't the question though...even though it's in the form of a question.  "Are All the Break-Ups in Your Poems Real?"  Ah, this question and the cousins of this question, "Is that poem based on a real event?" or "how much do you put of yourself in your work?"

The question is how far can the personal question go in regards to literary work.  The first lines represent straight-forward actions and scenes, "If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck / in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick, / the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse--"  Note that these images are so specific that they edge on fictitious.  Not that these actions and scenes can't happen in real life, but in a poem (and in writing in particular) -- the more specific, the more I question. Why this specific moment?  In so much detail?

"Yes, every last page is true, every nuance, bit, and bite."   But whom is it true for?  The more involved the reader, the more the reader takes the actions and scenes and builds meaning or theme from them.

But the speaker recants, but implants a seed of redefinition, "Wait.  I have made them up--all of them--/ and when I say I am married, it means I married / all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves."  The key words are "past loves."  Not so much the person, but the moment.  The speaker is playing with the audience interpretation and takes it further.  Past me stated, "mocking the question" and on one side the speaker, but on the other, the speaker, by writing and publishing the break-up is married (defined as a binding contract) to the moment -- recognized hand and hand down the street as "this break up" poem and "that break up" poem.

"Can you imagine the number of bouquets, how many / slices of cake?" And her's the "question" in the octave.  It's not what is stated, but the purpose.  Here the speaker is taking control of the questioning, turning the question on its head.  And instead of addressing the "truth" and "sincerity" as to define poetry -- the speaker is turning more towards the absurd to define the rest of the poem.  Now the answer portion relies on this question.

The funny parts here are how obedient her husbands are, "one chops up some parsley, one stirs a bubbling pot / on the stove.  One changes the baby, and one sleeps / in a fat chair."  Note the lack of names here which adds an illusion of control, but also anonymity.  Not who they are, but what each individual can do.

"and every single / one of them wonder what time I am coming home."  This last part of the poem brings the control back to the speaker -- not the reader or the moments -- in a fun and humorous way.  Also note the cheeky line break of "every single" in which the speaker leaves each one...wondering.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Analysis of "Tang" by Bruce Cohen

Original poem reprinted online here: "Tang" by Bruce Cohen
Originally read: June 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Bruce Cohen








Puns, puns everywhere.  The usage of the word "Tang" varies with each stanza; however, with each pun, there's always a reference to the speaker.  And to make sure the poem isn't about the puns, the speaker mentions himself in the beginning of the poem.


"If I do not witness these leaves turning orange, who will? / I stir myself / I like to think."  So these lines set the mood of the poem based upon rumination.  Here the speaker is thinking of the multiple definitions of "Tang" (puns, puns everywhere).


      of myself as a reincarnated Poet from the Tang Dynasty,
      Dehydrated orange drink
      Astronauts gulped orbiting the planet
      That became a fun '60's staple.

So here the speaker describes "tang" as Tang dynasty poets, and the drink.  If you can see, past me tried to put numbers next to the multiple definitions in order to find which relates to what.  The third definition is based on sound, "The bitter tang of a car's squealing tires as it peals out".

After this line, there's an expectation of more play -- of more pun usage; however, as the first part set-up for -- it's not about the puns, it's about redefinition of the word, and, for the speaker, the self, "Any distinguishing characteristic that provides special individuality."  This rhetoric plays more with the idea of redefinition in a more cynical way, which kind of foreshadows the rhetoric the speaker makes.

     Isn't it a very personal moment when each of us
     Recognizes we are failing,
     That we're incomplete, outdated perhaps,
     & need something new to make us valid.

This shift in tone -- a sort of self-help tone seems genuine to me.  Why?  The poem up to now appears to be a funny rumination to be taken lightly -- the techniques are proof of this -- the multiple puns, the title and the parts have a humorous undertone.  Why do I take this stanza a little more seriously.  It's the shift.  It's too drastic, and I know there's a fine line between dramatic and parody -- but since this stanza refers to definition, I'm more inclined to go with the dramatic.

The next stanza, "Sobbing on the mudroom floor, / Praying hands through a broken screen door, / Begging the aftermath of someone to come back,"  It's sentimental -- an emotional turn that was ordained to come.  Past me pointed that this stanza could refer to the "Tang Dynasty Poets" -- but the images seems more personal, but not necessarily based on the speaker's experience, more emotional in which the line, "The bitter tang of a car's squealing tires as it peels out" seems, to me, to fit more of.

The stanza focusing on distance refers to the tang the astronauts drink.  It's not about discovery in this stanza, it's the realization that it is, "Impossible / To ever become / One hundred percent reconstituted."

Now remember this is all the thoughts of the speaker.  But note how he links humorous play to serious philosophy as though trying to escape the paradigm of the signified and the signifier.  Or rather, the speaker turns not inward, but expands to the facade outward -- the type of outward which fringes on pinpointing what is really wrong on a cursory glance, "I am not where I am right now, in this autumn"

Not reconstitution, but place -- a center, "My mind is not what i used to be either." which is then dismissed with the humor and play introduced in the beginning, "There is no more just-add water."

The last two lines though mix the play and the serious by configuring definitions, " None of us can prove our previous lives.  / I mean pervious:  I meant disprove:"  The mind playing tricks.  Here the speaker is trying to recant (not redefine) what he meant.  Disprove our pervious lives.  Past me stated this was a "redefining trinity."  No...what this does is introduce the concept of backpedaling -- of wanting to go back and either forget what is said (I meant) or change the now (I mean) to this sort of concrete definition -- the center that's not really there.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Analysis of "Why I Am Not a Buddhist" by Charles Bernstein

Original poem reprinted online here: "Why I Am Not a Buddhist" by Charles Bernstein
Originally read: June 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Bernstein






In the "About the Poem" here Bernstein writes about how he's wrote these types of poem before like, "Why I Am Not a Christian" and "Why I Don't Meditate" -- and for this poem in particular the writer was "both sophistical and sincere (a favorite combination)."  Bernstein further goes into his intent for writing poems like these with:

"My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?

All true poetry comes from deep fear, immobility, timidity. (I love Walter Benjamin’s essay on Hölderlin’s timidity.) This is our common ground, our temporal consanguinity (blood ties).

Reality is not kind.

I’d tell you in an instant, if I could."

Bernstein's aesthetic shows in the first line of the poem.  "Reality cons me as it spur(n)s me."  The parenthetical of "spur(n)s" is the catalyst in the poem, but not the most impartant part of the line.  It's the notion that "Reality cons me" is plainly put out there.

Then the next line, "This is the road to eternal" plays with the idea of something more, but what is there more, "Consanguinity," (bloodline).  Something generational.  Yes, going back to the first line, reality cons me -- but the result will always fluctuate between spur and spurns as stated with the contrast in this line,"eloping with / Hope and leaving me to pick / Up the proverbial bag."  Always on the move away or toward reality.

The last line is cheeky, "But that's the argument for" that puts a whole new context to the poem.  What the speaker writes is the knowledge of this occurrence -- reality conning me, but spur(n)s me.  What if by having this knowledge constantly go around is a sense of mindfulness associated with "Buddhist" (at least according to him).

The question would be what would the argument against be?  Lack of knowledge?  Not be emotionally attached to reality?  Well...that's also "Buddhist" too in a way (see Four Noble Truths).  What's presented is a linguistic and philosophical paradox.  The poem is not a statement or a question, rather it presents a personal musing which traps the reader in as well.

My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?

All true poetry comes from deep fear, immobility, timidity. (I love Walter Benjamin’s essay on Hölderlin’s timidity.) This is our common ground, our temporal consanguinity (blood ties).

Reality is not kind.

I’d tell you in an instant, if I could - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23607#sthash.uzki92DS.dpuf
My concern is more What is false? than What is truth?

All true poetry comes from deep fear, immobility, timidity. (I love Walter Benjamin’s essay on Hölderlin’s timidity.) This is our common ground, our temporal consanguinity (blood ties).

Reality is not kind.

I’d tell you in an instant, if I could - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23607#sthash.uzki92DS.dpuf

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Analysis of "On the Death of a Colleague" by Stephen Dunn

Original poem reprinted online here: "On the Death of a Colleague" by Stephen Dunn
Originally read: June 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Stephen Dunn




Generic exposition.  This might come off as a bit surface in my analysis, but this is how the poem operates in the first stanza.  The title itself, "On the Death of a Colleague" opens up a eulogy tone which means there's going to be portions of nostalgia and exposition to understand the current.  For example, "She taught theater, so we gathered / in the theater."  There's no metaphor, or any poetic tricks here -- just simple statements which lead to generic remembrances, "We praised her voice, her knowledge, / how good she was / with Godot,"  The reference to Godot (existential journey viewed and acted through the absurd) will set an undertone throughout the poem.

However, we're back to the generalized descriptions of the passed, "She was fifty.  The problem in the liver."  Okay, not that personal of description, but more factual, and when the scene goes personal, "Each of us recalled / an incident in which she's been kind / or witty."  Yeah "kind or witty" are huge niceties.  An impersonal rememberance.

But the speaker tells an anecdote where the passed was helpful which was about being unable to speak and how the recently passed helped him out when she, "placed her hand / where the failure was" while the speaker was lying down.  And here's the joke, "I only could do it when I lay down" (speak that is).  Noise.  Even the speaker knows it's just noise to pass, "I was on stage and I heard myself / wishing to be impressive." 

Note that the generic is meant for something.  Here the speaker is showing the reason why -- to keep calm, to show grace -- but not friendship.

     and no one spoke
     of her face or the last few parties.
     The fact was
     I had avoided her for months.

With all this generic storytelling, exposition, and niceties building up, there's an expectation of something to break.  There's the literal break in the stanzas when, "It was a student's turn to speak" and the student exposes who the teachers last few months.  "She was drunk" and "she was a great teacher" and "someone should say / what everyone knew / because she didn't die by accident."

Here's the thing of this stanza which make me think this stanza is more meta-poetic than actual is the response from the student.  It's not unheard of that a student should know much about his teacher.  It's the delivery of the lines.  This particular student is an unknown element that feigns knowledge, when in actuality (or perhaps reality), the student slings words to elicit a reaction from the duldrom. Regardless, if this line is true or not (especially the line), "because she didn't die by accident" it's the emotional behind the rhetoric that pushes the poem. Personally, I don't know how to feel about that -- the forced emotionally epiphany.

In any case the epiphany causes this scene, "Everyone was crying.  Everyone was crying and it / was almost over now."  The scene is told straight with the audience having to infer why "everyone was crying" but that's not exactly true in the poem.  "The remaining speaker, an historian, said he'd cut / his speech short."  also, "the Chariman stood up as if by habit / said something about lostt / and thanked us for coming."  Not crying, not everyone, just the strong emotion behind the scene.

I think what solidifies the meta-poetic for me rather than the narrative is the last scene

     [...] None of us moved
     except some students
     to the student who'd spoken, and then others
     moved to him, across dividers,
     down aisles, to his side of the stage.


Here's the thing.  Where is the passed in all this?  No where.  The ending solidifies that this poem is not a eulogy for the dead.  Not that it's disrespectful or anything -- more of that both sides didn't know the recently departed as much as each would like to admit.

Now, the colleagues -- they remember the kind and witty woman who did well with her work.

The students remembers the dying woman -- drunk and suicidal, but a great teacher.

What is there to honor here but tropes, not the actual?  And here, when the students gravitate towards the spectacle sadness -- this shows a gap trying to reconcile one side to the other, but at what costs -- remembrance of the recent tragedy in lieu of a lifetime of both success and failures.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Analysis of "And One For My Dame" by Anne Sexton

Original poem reprinted online here: "And One For My Dame" by Anne Sexton
Originally read: June 23, 2013
More information about the Poet: Anne Sexton



In tercets, this poem also deals with three characters: the father, the husband and the speaker.  However, the weight of the poem falls heavily on who the father was and what he represents to the speaker.

The first nine stanzas focuses on how the speaker remembers the father, "a born salesmen, / my father made all his dough / by selling wool to Dieldcrest, Woolrich, and Faribo."  Note that the focus is "born" foreshadowing a sense of birthright (good or bad) and also how specific on who he sold his product.  Also note the colloquial tone which brings more attention to how the speaker tells the story rather than the story itself.

"A born talker, / he could sell one hundred wet down bales / of that white stuff.  He could clock the miles and the sales."  More reference to the father, but propped up to a quasi mythic proportion with regards to material and money.

The change is more focused on how the father is able to sell with careful language, "At home each sentence he would utter / first pleased the buyer who'd paid him off in butter," or, "Each word / had been tried over and over, at any rate, / on the man who was sold by the man who filled my plate."

Note how the focus on language -- certain specificity and how language is used to sell something plays into the speaker when she was younger who is not immune to the charm, "HOw suddenly gauche I was / with my old-maid heart and my funny teenage applause."

Then the image shifts back to the father with, "my father was in love with maps / while the radio fought its battles with Nazis and Japs."  The change starts here, yes, it's apparent because of the tone, but also because of the focus goes from selling to observing where the speaker also observes, Except when he hid / in his bedroom on a three day drunk, / he typed out complex itineraries, and packed his truck."  Here there's a bit of a serious undertone; however, as soon as the change comes about the father, it's gone to the point of view of the speaker in the present.

"I sit at my desk / each night with no place to go, / opening thee wrinkled maps of Milwaukee and Buffalo."  The speaker has "no place to go" which goes against her father.  And in this moment of staying, the speaker reflected on the father who, "He died on the road, / his heart bushed from neck to back, / his white hanky signaling from the window of the Cadillac" although this could be taken as a metaphor -- I take this more literal.  The father was in an accident.  Also I take this literal since the poem doesn't go into heavy metaphor -- maybe strong undertones, but not metaphor.

With the father dead, the speaker is trying to impress the "seller" onto the husband, "My husband, / as blue-eyed as a picture book, sells wool: / boxes of card waste, laps and rovings he can pull"  also the style of specificity is punctuated with the names as well, "say Leicester, Rambouillet, Marino."

Then the point-of-view turns back to the speaker, "Adn when you drive off, my darling, / Yes, sir! Yes, sir! It's one for my dame, / your simple cases branded with my father's name."  Explicit reference to the father similar to the husband -- furthermore, with the last stanza as well with the itinerary.

The last line, "its highways built up like new loves, raw and speedy" read nice, but hold a negative appeal.  The husband and the father can go on these highways -- they are compared and similar like the coupled rhymes with the last two lines of each stanza.  But for the one left out, the speaker, the first line that has to tell the story, there is no "new love"  there is no "raw and speedy" only reflection.  Slow, standing reflection.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Analysis of "We Come Elemental" by Tamiko Beyer

Original poem reprinted online here: "We Come Elemental" by Tamiko Beyer
Originally read: June 22, 2013
More information about the Poet: Tamiko Beyer





The collective experience.  After rereading this poem again and looking at my notes, I can see why past me was looking more at the technique than the content.   The technique changes every couple of stanzas.  The images, more or less, seem to go through a consistent thread, but tone, punctuation, style changes as though to temper the described journey of the poem.

 The first stanza deals with tactile imagery, as the "we" step into humid light, "It sticks to our skin / and microbes gorge / in grey water runoff pools."  The first image being so tactile transfers over the "microbes."  This stanza feels more like a cause and effect.  Humid light sticks to skin; therefore, microbes gorge on "sweat" (assuming the image of "greywater runoff pools" refers to sweat").

This sort of duality comes into play with the second technique in the second stanza -- repetition and alliteration, "The chlorophyll chorus sings / our collected chemical stew--/ nitrogen, nitrogen, nitrogen!"  Past me "alliteration garbles the line, discordance?"  Currently, yes, I do see the alliteration as a bit garbled; however, not discordant.  The sound is a front for the duality here of cause and effect: synthesis and product -- I think.  The chlorophyll throws me off a bit and I think of byproduct when I think of chlorophyll.

Anyway, I'm also getting ahead of myself since the next stanza, "Each molecule polished / each o each pair of h a banquet of lust--"  The bolding of the o and h refers to oxygen and hydrogen -- water?  The poem makes me think of the "elemental" in more scientific terms, the last two stanzas add to this sentiment regardless of technique; however, the poem shifts once again -- this time more drastically.

     wet sludge::
     stream suds::
     oil slick rain::

So, initially, I didn't look up the reason for the double colon and I felt the double colon works to reinforce the duality played by the poem so far and the gradual shifts of the alignment for each stanza works to add tension to a very scientific language.  However, I looked up the usage of double colons today, double colon.  Here's a quote on the usage, "When a ratio is reduced to a simpler form, such as 10:15 to 2:3, this may be expressed with a double colon as 10:15::2:3; this would be read '10 is to 15 as 2 is to 3'."

The double colon works as a comparative device based on scale -- and note that's how the poem has worked in the beginning, comparison between the "skin" (human) and "microbes."  Similar duality at this point rather than comparative.  And the alignment shifting back show this.  Note how "our" solidifies the relationship.  Also the chant-like anaphora brings a sense to the mythic.

      ::eat the bread of our body's slough
      ::eat our bread the crumbed down drain
      ::eat our bread our rainbowed fuel.

The next two stanzas are image based "clear."  Past me noted this for this line, "--those quick vein of industry--" -- natural construction.

And with the last stanza the construction brings the poem back:

     and we learn again
     green's good
     was light veined
     through leaves.

Again the reference to the vein, however against the "light" which was defined as "humid" in the first stanza.  What is exposed is "clear."  What is learned is on scale.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Analysis of "Void and Compensation (Field Guide)" by Michael Morse

Original poem reprinted online here: "Void and Compensation (Field Guide)" by Michael Morse
Originally read: June 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Michael Morse



Two things that are going on in this poem -- the 2nd person perspective and (mostly) end stopped stanzas.  Why is this important to note before reading the poem?  For me, I think the addressing of the you controls the type of images and metaphors represented which is furthermore constricted by the 2nd person point of view.  Because it's not what the reader sees, it's what the speaker wants to show.  Kind of like a choose your own adventure book...but is it really and adventure?

The first stanza plays with the idea of a "field guide" with, "Page one's a white space for thinking; even here among the evergreens / beyond the living room and the white noise."  Here, the stanza serves as a palette cleanser.  The repetition of white should prepare the reader for images to pop up.

And the first image, "The guide held firmly in the hand means to see" is of "you" holding onto the guide -- as though to give control to the reader to see, but the the next image, "Through mist and wind made visible by branches, / do you name a thing and lose other options, counterlives?" sort of pops up from a blank space (white -> hand -> mist and wind).  The speaker is entrusting the reader with viewing the images and then asks the question, "do you name a thing and lose other options, counterlives."  The question like "if you name something, is it defined"  The poem plays with deconstruction at this point.

"Are you in turn a season named and filled with music? / Say then the weather changes and takes the singing elsewhere?" the idea of naming and questioning continues through to the next stanza and past me wrote, "set of rhetorical questions based on sight at first then shifts to other senses -- hearing, touch?"  So the sonic aspect of the questions doesn't add to the initial image, rather, to me, questions the validity of the initial image -- furthermore, in trying to decipher what is going on the questions doesn't necessarily disrupt the image, but expands and blurs the scope.  A whole lot of "where am I."

"Of fidelity and proximity, the latter is a watchword."  Here I feel the first part of the or duo is important.  Proximity, is more or less, questioned here (speaker to the reader, reader to the scene, speaker to the scene).  Fidelity addresses the reader to continue on and see what happens next (with the guide and the poem).

The poem then focuses on how to approach viewing (white -> hand -> visible) with clear, "A window."  However, in this stanza the last line, "in your place or by your side.  Two forms.  Two matters."  reveals and foreshadows an upcoming difference. 

Different Form and Matter: "From expectations of pure pop in flowering trees / down to knee-high scrub, with hope and faith / I tried to com to terms with what was common." The most description of the visual, and also the introduction of the "I" speaker who, "heard and sang back a little brown bird," and "tried to name what I saw and how I felt."  And with these lines there's a sense that the speaker, in the beginning, is asking the "you" to describe and name in order for the speaker to understand how to describe and name -- because the end product is, "bird was gone. Or the song, / or the singing, and what's left."

What is left?  The image, the deconstruction, is more vivid when the reader imagines, but for the speaker, it's mostly (based on the poem) effervescent.  When discussed it's gone, "A blind so we first see without being seen -- / not mentioned in books, found only in looking."  Note it is in the act of looking that  the difference occurs.  The speaker, although a bit more vivid, has the images taken away.  The reader, although more vague, still can create images based on little to no description.  I think...yeah.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Analysis of "Hedgehog" by Paul Muldoon

Original poem reprinted online here: "Hedgehog" by Paul Muldoon
Originally read: June 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Paul Muldoon





"Why start out with a snail? comparative metaphor and how to read the poem -- absurd but somewhat reasoned images."  That's the first comment past me put on this poem.  Well, I'm pretty sure from the first stanza no one could guess where this poem ends up, but it makes sense when a reader goes back to the beginning and reads the poem again.  But the comparative metaphor, the absurd, the images -- those are important aspects in this poem.

"Why start out with a snail?"  Yes, this comment is about the first stanza.  The image of the snail is compared to a hovercraft -- and although the images are surreal, the important line here is, "Rubber cushion of itself, / Sharing its secret"  The last line is the change of tempo from image to rhetoric / however, the cushion of itself blends in two concepts -- the physical and the self and here the real thread goes through.

But first, the thread of the "secret."  The next stanza focuses on the hedgehog, "shares its secret with no one."  The introduction of the "we" in the third line of the second stanza puts the reader and the speaker at the reader vantage point -- that means the speaker is inferring the metaphors and images, rather than implying.  What's the difference.  Focus and power.  The image and the rhetoric comes first, and with the statement of the speaker as part of the collective "we" then there's a tension between sides building up.

"We say, Hedgehog, come out / Of yourself and we will love you."  This is also the only time that "Hedgehog" is capitalized, also the speaker wants couples two things together -- "come out /of yourself" seems to be the equivalent to the "secret."  And exposure of the self -- we will love the exposed self.

The third stanza focuses on what the "audience" wants from the hedgehog -- to listen, to gain answers to "our questions."  A focus on the audience builds the tension as what "we" ask, the hedgehog responds by, "The hedgehog gives nothing / Away, keeping itself to itself."  The "we" wants and the "hedgehog" doesn't give.

Absurd, right?  Funny, a little.  But the kind of light tone changes with this couplet, "We wonder what a hedgehog / Has to hide, why it so distrusts us."  A direct statement that questions intent.  Also there is a shift from "the" to "a."  Something specific to more of a generalization.

The last stanza ties in another metaphor to the situation:

     We forget the god
     under this crown of thorns.
     We forget that never again
     will a god trust in the world.

So the direct jab to the Christian mythos of "crown of thorns" (Jesus/god) and the last line of "will a god trust in the world" has some power through the rhetoric.  But note that this powerful statement doesn't have a strong sentiment behind it; rather the opposite.  The claim is made through loose visual association, and, to me, the lines come off as a light philosophical pondering brought on by the absurd images rather than a pounding of a statement.  Musing versus statement.  "We think..." vs "We know..."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Analysis of "The last poem in the world" by Benny Anderson

Original poem reprinted online here: "The last poem in the world" by Benny Anderson
Originally read: June 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Benny Anderson

 This poem is a translation from Danish.

I do wonder, a usual, what's lost in translation, but when I reread this poem the poem is about loss, but not necessarily the loss in a emotional drudgery sort of way, but more of a c'est la vie humorous type of approach to loss.

The opening lines, "If this were the last poem in the world / I would make it as long as possible / infinitely long" are very straight forward.  Note, that at this point the poem is not post-apocalyptic, rather describes itself as the "last poem in the world" as though either a) poetry ceases to exist due to eradication or b) poetry ceases to exist do to apathy.  Also note that the focus isn't content -- rather length -- the humor of this situation is punctuated with the drop down adjusted line "infinitely long" as though to tell the audience that this will be a humorous poem.

Then the poem goes meta-poetical with the focus on technique, "but I would slow down the last few lines / and stop just before it ended / afraid of falling into space" these lines foreshadow the technique at the end (look at the end of the poem), but also there's the interjection of the speaker as the self wanting to continue or he will be, "falling into space."    The trick with these lines is that the discussion of the technique or serious is buffered with the absurd.

The next part is the other half of the "or" duo.  And, as stated before, most of the time, the second part of the "or" is the part in which the speaker wants us to focus on -- the first half either is a smokescreen or a pithy use to portray to opposite.  And so what does the speaker want the reader to focus on?

     or I would lie down
     and creep on my belly out the edge
     hang onto the very last words
     and carefully lean over the abyss
     where all poems end

What these lines are doing is placing the speaker as the poet -- somewhat akin to a (humorous) Dante looking in and having to chronicle his adventures.  Instead of Beatrice, the speaker is trying to hang onto (and find) the last words of a poem.  Also note that the action of the lines differ from the thoughts of the previous lines.

The poet is looking "to see a poem from the other side" in which way?  Final product? Deconstruction?  I don't think too hard about this idea.  Why  because the focus is not the other side, but the beginning in this poem.

     the first poem in the world
     then like a fly wound move
     along this under side
     clinging to every word

Okay so this sentiment goes on.  This sentiment of "clinging" and again the clingy nature is buffered with the simile of the fly.  However, this sentiment goes on for nine lines or a good 1/3 of the poem.  with the line, "and turn up in the first line of this poem / or maybe some place completely different" ending the stanza.  A good thing to point out is the poem keeps foreshadowing or instructing the reader how to read the poem structurally -- but not necessarily contextually.

The poem does indeed slow down at the last two stanzas.  The first of the two focusing on the refusal to believe that what the poet writes is the last poem in the world or not finish and do another poem.  Here the speaker refuses to finish "this poem," but this is more of a focus on the last stanza in the poem and what it does and state.

As foreshadowed with the line,  "turn up in the first line of this poem"  The stanza (or the last line) has the similar structure of the drop down line at the end.  The last stanza contains the speaker's sentiment of, "I would refuse to write it / In any case I would stop as soon as possible / like right here"  The lack of punctuation (throughout the whole poem) becomes clear here since punctuation should be the missing "element" to complete this poem; furthermore, the line ending where it is tells the intent without "completion."


Monday, December 16, 2013

Analysis of "Pittsburgh" by James Allen Hall

Original poem reprinted online here: "Pittsburgh" by James Allen Hall
Originally read: June 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Allen Hall






A singular stanza, I find that the power of this poem is how the speaker is trying to vent out a certain kind of hatred, but keeps in another kind of hatred.  I ask myself if the angry tone ever gets over the top, and, yeah it does.  However, the fluctuation of the level of anger and the naming of landmarks bring dimension to the speaker as a character.

"I burn your Highland Park. I acid your Carnegie / car dealerships.  Your Squirrel Hill, sheer terror / in winter.  But most of all, I hate your Liberty Avenue,"    Short declarative sentences with these verbs "burn" "acid" "hate."  Simple visceral statement, but note that this is in the present tense as though the speaker is either seeing the landmarks now or is thinking about it.  Also note this is a good example of  "in media reas."  As a reader, we're in the middle of this anger, but don't know why or if the reasons are even there.

The poem goes into a narrative after describing the hatred of Liberty Avenue "the last place, one night, I saw my closest friend / saying, Wait here, outside after the after-hours club."    The personal here is not described in as much detail.  Nor does these lines indicate a reason why the speaker is angry at these places.  However, there is an implication that the wait further drives the anger when the speaker continues to list his hate, hating your Strip, half your Shadyside, all of Bloomfield."

And at this point, the anger seems unwarranted and treads the line of going too much.  I think for me, the first reading I thought this would be the place where I'd go to the next one, but then this line, which refers to the personal brought me back, "the bluffs and flats where my friends trades himself"  very specific action, but not specific places.  It's as if the surrounding area adds the detail of the situation, or should, but doesn't rather -- the quiet nameless actions define the places -- seedy, vile, warranting a certain type of hatred according to the speaker.

"I wait hours, then trace your Mexican War / Streets looking for his car, so I could declare a truce / in the battle he was fighting against himself."  I think this line sums up the style of the poem up to this point -- the personal once again is used to drive the poem and the specific becomes more and more a backdrop.  Yes, these places matter and are important; furthermore, the speaker doesn't change the meaning of these places, but starts, slowly, to show his hatred for the place, but not the person.

The poem continues this style and the lines that stick out for me now are the personal when, in the beginning, the landmarks, places and speakers anger intrigued me, "In the morning he's home. / He cannot tell me where it hurts. I help him shower / off the Duquesne residue."   The places have transformed as adjectives rather than nouns.  They describe the other now, the relationship, and the speaker. 

The final mention of place is of "Pittsburgh" itself (this'll be a long quote):

     [...] Pittsburgh, you're all grit and gristle turning crystal
     track marks, turning a man meth mouth.  I feed him,
     put him to bed.  I'll keep watch tonight in a cable car
     ascending Mt. Washington, your smokestacks
     blowing clouds over the confluence until all you are,
     Pittsburgh, is a sleepless shimmer I will watch
     diminish down to the savaged seed of morning
     as impossible to watch as you are to name.

Why the long quote here?  Up to this point the varying levels of tone -- the anger of place, made the speaker feel one dimensional.  Then when place and narrative combined -- the focus was on the shift of place and other and relationship.  Here is the definition.

Here the definition is not only of the place, but also of the speaker who seems calm in his description.  As a reader, I can sense the calm after reading thins line, "turning a man meth mouth" the alliteration (which also is frequent in this section of the poem) is not the "funny alliteration" rather the alliteration to punctuate the moment, as though to remember to specifics.

Specifics like, "cable car /ascending Mt. Washington"  note the upward momentum in which the speaker goes above the clouds to see the whole place -- the bigger picture in a sense as the specifics don't define the speaker.  "Pittsburgh, is a sleepless shimmer I will watch" also note that the speaker used "watch" in the previous line "I'll keep watch tonight in a cable car." 

The speaker has to be calm and observant for the other.  The parallel watching of Pittsburgh and the friend now blends together -- Pittsburgh is the other.

"I will watch / diminish down to the savaged seed of morning / as impossible to watch as you are to name."  The last line should refer to Pittsburgh, but with the shift of place and person -- the line, now, has a stronger impact when thought of the other -- nameless while speaker watches "diminish down."

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Analysis of "The Masks of Love" by Alden Nowlan

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Masks of Love" by Alden Nowlan
Originally read: June 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Alden Nowlan


I didn't highlight anything for this poem.  I just put notes on the side for each stanza.  Why?  Past me was more interested in the flow of the poem.  And me, currently, has to agree.  The poem is not about flashy techniques -- rather, the poem has two quatrains that serve as an exposition, and then a question.

Exposition:

     I come in from a walk
     With you
     And they ask me
     If it is raining.

Pretty straight forward and simple enough.  There's the speaker and the other walking in from somewhere, and "they" ask if there is rain.  Three parties in this part: the speaker, the "you", and the "they."  No big tonal points, and no big technique points.

Question:

     I didn't notice
     But I'll have to give them
     The right answer
      Or they'll think I"m crazy.

Past me wrote, "The 'now' having to lie or figure out -- scene or atmosphere" and "'cute' however the consequences of "they" thinking the speaker is crazy is minimal."  And if I thought this was the poem itself, then this poem comes of too simple, and so what? (ah that annoying question).

The "so what" is this for me.  It's the way the speaker gets flustered. The way that the "you" has disappeared from the second stanza and then focuses directly on the question -- what is the right answer?  That, within this relationship, that what "they" think has a lot of weight.  How much?  Well, that's the speaker's point of view.

And this is why I can reread this poem and not be bored with it.  The second part could be interpreted in many different ways -- a dangerous fluster, or a lovesick bumbling.  But there's no pressure to think one way or the other.  Whatever strikes the reader at the moment -- the poem is still relatable in some sense. Simple technique, complex answer.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Analysis of "Conversation" by Ai Ogawa

Original poem reprinted online here: "Conversation" by Ai Ogawa
Originally read: June 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ai Ogawa






"and you realize how that image / is simply the extension of another image."  Past me circled these lines and wrote "core."    These lines occur in the middle of the poem, and the question being why announce your technique in the middle of a poem?  Well, if the subject matter is too strong, too much for a reader, the little respite brings reflection.

The poem opens up with present day action, "We smile at each other / and I lean back against  the wicker couch, / How does it feel to be dead? I say"  The scene starts off innocuous, but then start of the conversation brings another question of "who is dead."

But instead of who, it's more about the action of the dead:

     You touch my knees with your blue fingers
     And when you open your mouth,
     a ball of yellow light falls to the floor
     and burns a hole through it.

Past me noted how surreal the images are.  But note how the more surreal the images become, the sexual implications with, "You touch my knees with your blue fingers" become less apparent. 

But the sexual implication doesn't appear, but is heard in the next lines, "Don't tell me, I say, I don't want to her, Did you ever, you start.  It's as though the speaker is trying not to remember this scene of the dead, but the audio turns to visual when there's mention of the dress in which the "you" figure, "so inconsequential you barely notice it. / your fingers graze that dress."  Note how the the dress is it's own entity in the poem and not necessarily what the speaker wore -- but also note the implications that the dress and the speaker could be connected.  What's important here is the haze between what could be.

Then after this, the lines I mentioned in the beginning are here, "and you realize how that image / is simply the extension of another image."  Now since the dress is ambiguous -- or at least sets up an ambiguity -- I contend that the "you" here shifts as well.  I know this isn't supported (as much of my analysis) but I could see that the speaker is referring to "you" as in the other (the dead in her memory) and herself (the one who distances herself from the memory).  And here the speaker is trying to refocus so that, "your own life / is a chain of words / that one day will snap."  Note the tone change back to the speaker and not the image -- there's more rhetoric here with the indication to "snap"

"Words, you say, young girls in a circle holding hand,"  past me wrote, "reverting the image back to the words.  Furthermore, the images create a distance through representation and the image themselves, "rise heavenward,"  "like white helium balloons,"  "where I'm floating."  Distance created in an upward momentum.  And the speaker plays with the idea of going upward.

     only ten times clearer,
     ten times more horrible
     Could anyone alive survive it?

The further the escape, the harder the memory hits when it returns.  The speaker demonstrated that in the beginning of the poem.  Why the proof before the question?  Impact.  The question here has the greater impact than the scene.  It's not if anyone can survive the memory, it's is anyone could survive a futile upward escape.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Analysis of "The Swiss Family Robinson" by Ron Padgett

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Swiss Family Robinson" by Ron Padgett
Originally read: June 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ron Padgett



The confusion of language.  In the first half of the poem focuses how language can dissuade a reader from reading; furthermore, the focus of language is described as simple as possible.

The speaker admits he "never quite understood / the Swiss Family Robinson were."  Note the construction of the sentence with the verb last which usually defies syntactical convention (Subject -> Verb -> Object).  And by writing syntactically like this, the speaker foreshadows his own misunderstanding.

     The inversion of their name
     confused me at an early age,
     just as the name Mary baker Eddy
     sounded as though she started out
     as a woman and turned into
     a guy named Eddy.

There's humor here mostly based on the comparison the speaker makes.  Yes, there's the urge to look at the references to the names and the background of the novel, "The Swiss Family Robinson," and the Christian Scientist, "Mary Baker Eddy."  However, the speaker disallows the reader's to venture that route due to the focus of language and the absurdity (at least how the speaker sees it in my opinion) of inversion.

Note that there is no judgement on the absurdity (good or bad) rather a observation.  And with the next part, the focus is on assumption.  The speaker is assuming:
    
     At Walt
     Disney World there is an attraction
     called Swiss Family Robinson that
     involves a tree house, so I assume
     they lived in a tree.

Past me wrote down, "Humor in the construction: *name, *production of the book, *reproduction of normalcy"  It's not normalcy, but a scene, a reproduced scene. 

The speaker then goes on to judging the reproduction, "It sounds rather / stressful to me, the fear / of falling out."  Again, not about the story, language and reproduction.

Then the next lines plays with irony:

     I could look up
     the Swiss Familiy Robinson
     in a reference book, but
     it's interesting not to know
     something that everyone else knows.

The irony here is that his interpretations based on language and reproduction is what I find interesting and produces "poems"; however, the assumption on the other side is that they know the novel and produce "attractions."

The poem ends with, again, a focus on language where the speaker would like to know "if there / are many people named Robinson / in Switzerland."  and by know thing, "I would know something that / most people don't know."  Note how the speaker uses "Swiss" as an adjective.  I don't know the story myself, but I do remember the Disney movie long time ago.  So I don't know if they were Swiss.

Anyway, besides this point the speaker is reinterpreting the name through language, observation and assumption and freely admits that.  Meanwhile, there's reproductions and attractions that assume that people "know" the work.  I don't know anything.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Analysis of "In the Storm of Roses" by Ingeborg Bachmann

Original poem reprinted online here: "In the Storm of Roses" by Ingeborg Bachmann
Originally read: June 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ingeborg Bachmann






The poem is more of a deconstruction of the image into pieces of metaphor.  Each part of the rose creates each part of the storm.

But first, the introduction of the speaker and the other, "Wherever we turn in the storm of roses" -- unison.  The group mentality is here, but note this is a group sharing a metaphorical catastrophe together.

"the night is lit up by thorns," see how these images don't necessarily match.  How does the thorns light up the night?  The shift in visual images could bring a sense of the surreal to the poem; however, my interpretation is that the  night is lit is not a visual image, rather a physical one.  The thorns enliven the night -- the pain swirling.

"and the thunder / of leaves,"  Here's a sonic metaphor.  The sound of lives swirling fast is the equivalent of thunder.  How?  The speaker and the other are "trapped" within the storm -- sound, images, emotions are amplified.

"once so quiet within the bushes," a dirty mind could make something of this.  But this refers to the "leaves" syntactically.  Well let's say the reference is to sex, the line represents more of a precursor, a leeway towards exposition with the "once."  However, the image of hindrance of sound and visual comes into play here as well -- the storm exposes the speaker and the other.

"rumbling at our heels."  Once again this image refers back to the sound of thunder and leaves.  But  the core difference is the collective "heels" -- the movement.  Even if it is to run together -- away or to something.  The sense of togetherness in a metaphorical catastrophe doesn't separate them.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Analysis of "Last Meeting" by Gwen Harwood

Original poem reprinted online here: "Last Meeting" by Gwen Harwood
Originally read: June 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gwen Harwood


The first thing past me noted was the rhyme scheme in which only the second and fourth line rhyme.  A separation is formed based on cohesiveness and non-cohesiveness through the rhyme scheme which, I feel, is addressed in the first stanza.

The first stanza has strong visual imagery, "Shadows grazing eastward melt/ from their vast sun-driven flocks"  but note how the beginning image and the last image constrast each other "Shadow" and "sun-driven"; furthermore, the shadows are "melting" "from" the sun driven flocks.  The next line  indicate cohesiveness through the images, "into consubstantial dusk."

The visual images continue as to create an atmosphere, "A snow wind flosses the bleak rocks, / strips from the gums their rags of bark, / and spins the coil of winter tight."  So here we have the season of winter but also note the scene deals with a sense of destruction on a minuscule scale. 

The next lines refer to an "our" but the scenic images already preface the relationship.  A split, a merge, the end slowly breaking apart, but what the actual action between the speaker and the other is, "our last meeting as we walk / the litoral zone of day and night."  There is a play here of non-cohesiveness again (day and night) but also a sense of the metaphor.  The poem, here, becomes more and more reliant on the metaphor to dictate the pace.

Even with the "dissolve in nightfall-eddying waters;" line in the next stanza, the image serving as metaphor is at the forefront.  How?  The verb "dissolve" should be the focus and the semi-colon indicates that the next action of "tumbling whorls of cloud disclose / the cold eyes of the sea-god's daughters" -- distance.

The metaphors create distance, and so when we get back to the speaker, "We tread the warck of glass that once / a silver-bearded congregation / whispered about our foolish love"  Note these are not things the speaker is declaring, rather the metaphor and the image sets up the conclusion of the foolish love.

So much of the metaphor and image has overtaken the poem that the personal image and the nature image, tonally at least, feel the same, "Your voice in calm annunciation / form the dry eminence of thought / rings with astringent melancholy."  Not what the voice says, rather how the voice says it.  And what's being said?  It doesn't matter -- the outcome devastates the speaker much how nature devastates itself

"'Could hope recall, or wish prolong / the vanished violence of folly? / Minute by minute summer died."  With these lines the first hint of sentimentality comes in with the alliteration of "vanished violence of folly"  and a bit of hyperbole with, "Minute by minute summer died."  These lines feels like the after effects of an unsaid conversation -- the break-up probably.

But the emotional hyperbole continues with, "this reef on which our love lies wrecked / Our hearts drown in their cardinal guilt."  And here I'd be like "over sentimental, too much emotion" in these lines, which I'm 50/50 about, but note the phrase, "their cardinal guilt" which adds a sense of displacement to the speaker which goes firther with the next stanza.

     The world, said Ludwig Wittgenstein,
     is everything that is the case.
     - The warmth of human lips and thighs;
     the lifeless cold of outer spcae.

here the speaker quotes a source to dictate the images now.  It's as if the speaker is quickly distancing herself from emotional lines before hands and goes back to image, to what can be seen, but not heard.

     this windy darkness; Scorpio
     above, a watercourse of light;
     the piercing absence of one face
     withdrawn for ever from my sight.

And here the sense of irony is in here through the visuals.  Yes, the speaker can remember the scene, the sky, the quote -- however, when it comes to "we" -- there's a lack of description.  The speaker remembers through the imagery of the surroundings; meanwhile, the speaker recognizes, "the piercing absence of one face / withdrawn for ever from my sight."  Gone, the lover -- gone the image of him.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Analysis of "Tar" by Douglas Kearney

Original poem reprinted online here: "Tar" by Douglas Kearney
Originally read: June 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Douglas Kearney





When I reread this poem, I noticed something that past me wrote about for the end, "black implication? Too broad, misguided impact."  And I wonder why.  I think this is the challenge of the poem, how far does can on take a metaphor until the metaphor is an actual representation of the subject.

For example, the opening line that includes the title, "[Tar] by the roadside, rude and odd and who / is it?"  The personification of Tar happens right away, but the attributes of "rude and odd" doesn't necessarily humanize the tar, but the idea of humanization happens with, "who is it?"

And at this point, the "Tar" has to be taken as a term for a person.  I think this makes sense.  Instead of playing with the signifier and signified, or punning around, the poem is more direct, "won't it speak when it know better to? / every wrong word caught in its dumb trap / and how dare it think it is?"

So with the takeaway from metaphorical implications, the lines  take on the perspective of someone chastizing, bullying, yelling, angry, at the Tar.  The language with the last three lines I quoted are trying to dehumanize the "Tar" into well tar.

But I think this is the illusion that the poem plays with, more of the derogatory term and being that derogatory term.  "the hit happen / next, as if saying to dull darkness: hey. / here I am being here and so hey, hey!"  Monosyllabic exclamations. Note this is what the speaker is appropriating to the tar.  The "dull darkness" is the recipient of the exclamations -- it's kind of a weird role reversal where the speaker is trying to gain attention thereby further pushing away the metaphor, the concept to just that.

"HEY! and still by the roadside, stuck, / presence to absence spattered in"  and I think this is where past me started to think there would be a loss of impact or at least a change -- the language here is different.  It's too concerned with play with the line, "presence to absence spattered in" it reads as deliberately setting up a metaphorical ending.  As where the power of the previous line is the disregard of the metaphors attempt to be personified into something more -- degrading the metaphor back to the object.

And so the last line, "that black ever mess." would have a stronger line if the tone was continuing to build up to this line.  However, I do see that "presence to absence spattered in" buffers the impact in order to create a wedge -- like that seed of doubt that makes the reader wonder about the speaker more than what the speaker states.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Analysis of "Complaint of Achilles' Heel" by Charles Jensen

Original poem reprinted online here: "Complaint of Achilles' Heel" by Charles Jensen
Originally read: June 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Jensen







After reading this poem a couple of times, past me wrote this note pointing to the "Achilles' Heel" in the title, "Is this the perspective?"  Well, it is.   The speaker plays with the perspective and language in order to give a different interpretation of Achilles.

The tone of the speaker is playful in the beginning, "Everyone's so quick to blame my / tenderness."  And the language splits a bit between the physical and the emotional automatically.  Mixed with the playful tone, it seems the speaker doesn't take the scenario seriously.

Yet, the simile of the next line, "My wound opening like a mouth / to kiss an arrow's steel beak" is oddly direct.  The perspective is further personified with the line attempting to make the speaker into a separate entity from the "beautiful man, now, plants his face / in Trojan sand," Achilles, and now since the "body" is dead, the speaker can now, "tell / the secrets of his body --"

But not necessarily the third stanza elaborates the death of Achilles as though to set up something, "Red with the death of Achilles, felled / by an arrow's bit when nothing--"  Yes, I read the poem multiple times so I know what's coming.  But the line, "by an arrow's bit when nothing--" the "nothing--" along with the shifting tone foreshadows a change.

"nothing-- could puncture his Kevlar skin."  There's a hint of the present here due to the diction of Kevlar (as current me pointed out).  Now the poem could go towards the contemporary, but the next line focuses more on something the speaker can do in the present, comment on the past, "Everyone skips ahead to the moral: don't / be a heel."  The shift in tone is diffused by the pun.  Don't be a heel -- bad guy, and well, the actual heel in this case.  This line I feel is the core of the poem tone wise.  The speaker shifts from playful, to a bit serious, then back to playful -- an unexpected element in a well known tale.

I think this is what makes the poem work -- rather than being tethered to the allusion, the speaker is bringing perspective, humor, and shifts in order to drive the poem towards the speaker and using the allusion more as an experiment without bashing it.

Now where was I, "For just one day I felt / sun where the chaffing bonds of sandal / should have been."  The lines bring motive to the speaker -- fleshing it out more.  And with this new sense of self, there is a sense of importance:
    
     [...] Without me, he'd be
     just more fodder for the cannon. 

     I made him a hero, Troy's poster
     boy.  Everyone forgets I was a part of him,
     I needed him -- [...]

This sequence brings power because it's so human in a sense.  The shift of emotions similar to grief -- anger, resentment, and so the "acceptance" in the end of "I needed him" is a strong emotional appeal which, I feel, this line, "--that even as he died, / I tasted each pulse--" feels completes the poem in a logical way, but doesn't fit the form of tercets.

The last image, "that I could not hold back its rush of red / birds or the season to which they flew" comes out of nowhere for me.  I mean the tone and mood shifts, but the image going in this direction feels a bit throwaway, but I think that's the point of the lines -- just something to divert attention just like the body when the weakness is the heel.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Analysis of "A child said, What is the grass?" by Walt Whitman

Original poem reprinted online here: "A child said, What is the grass?" by Walt Whitman
Originally read: June 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: Walt Whitman






Rhetorical questions at the beginning of poems make me wonder some times technique wise.  After the question, does the speaker try to answer it, or does the speaker try to further explain the question with the following lines? 

The poem does both.  There's an expansion of the scope of the question and the answer which is interplayed with each stanza in which .

The first stanza sets up the question from the perspective from a child, "A child said, What is grass" to the speaker who "I do not know what it it is anymore than he." 

But then there's the expansion of what it could be, "I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven."  Note that the repeating of this phrase "Or I guess" continues on for the next three stanzas.  To me, the repetition shifts the defintions and builds the character of the speaker to be more confident.

"Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord," the analogy here -- grass to Lord's handkerchiefs expands the realistic to the metaphor.  And in doing so foreshadows the extent the "answers" and probably the "detailing of the questions" will go.  Also note that the stanza continues by using smell imagery, "A scented gift and remebrancer, designedly dropped, / Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we / may see and remark and say whose."  And by using the smell imagery, the speaker adds a sense of mysterious and, furthermore, places the people who try to find out what the mystery of the image (smell, and handkerchief)

"Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe / of the vegetation," not so much a deeper context, but a different perspective to show another way of defining grass. 

 "Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphics,"  the analogy then turning to language adds a sense of deciphering which is a thread throughout the poem.  So through the repetition,  the speaker answers the question realistically, metaphorically divine, metaphorically in tune with nature, and metaphorically through linguistics.    By doing this, the speaker sort of sets boundaries of the answer to limitless.  Now why though?

Within the same stanza the speaker tries to apply this universality of the metaphor to actual people, "growing among black folks as among white, / Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the /same, I receive them the same."  By placing the "grass" (which has been thoroughly symbolized) with people, the speaker is showing no preference in application -- race, or job.

Now this is what the speaker does with the "answers" per se.  But past me states for the next stanza, "[the speaker] repurposes the image [grass] to also mean more."   This is slightly off.  The first line states, "Tenderly will I use you."  Instead of repurposing, the line is more of a dissemination of the answer: men, women, old people, mothers.

Then the grass is fully metaphor when it comes to the core of grass, "The grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old / mothers / Darker than the colorless bears of old men, / Dark to come from under the fain red roofs of the mouths."  So why the color change?  Notice how the dark comes from people -- it's like a false "grass" -- what the speaker is providing is less "dark grass" -- something more pure as defined in the earlier stanzas, grass that is child-like, sought after, the handkerchief of the Lord.

The speaker, who wasn't so confident before, shows confidence with lines like, "O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues! And I perceive they do not come from the roots of mouths / for nothing"  To make a proclamation like this shows direction -- I'm just not as sure what he proclaims.  The sentence has a tone of chastising through the use of the negative.  Yet the statement is in double negative form "do not come" and "nothing" -- so it's positive, right?  The grass comes from something.

Anyway. the speaker continues with, "I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men / and women."  The line can reference the, "O I guess it is a uniform hieroglyph" line.  But the important action here is the "wish" -- this is more of wishing to tell the stories of these people.

And that's the usefulness of "grass" -- lot of metaphor which, ultimately,  has this limitation -- metaphors can't tell stories.

So when the speaker turns to rhetorical questions, "What do you think has become of the young and old men?  / What do you think has become of the women and children,"  he's not specifically asking about the status of these people, but their of their lives -- the real and the metaphorical stories behind each character.

The speaker reassures himself, "They are live and well somewhere ; / The smallest sprouts show there is really no death" -- a "darker" image of actual death, but a story untold as well is a form of death.  But with every blade of grass, there's a change the metaphor can be used to blossom into something more.

So, "All goes onward and outward" as the speaker states, and, through the prophetic voice, makes this strong claim, "And to dies is different from what any one supported, / and luckier."  Death, not so much the ascension to a higher place to be alive (although this is probably the point of the poem to show grass and people analogously linked in a cycle).  How about Death as an unknown story beyond the metaphors and meaning -- just an onward and outward chapter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Analysis of "Wait" by Galway Kinnell

Original poem reprinted online here: "Wait" by Galway Kinnell
Originally read: June 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Galway Kinnell



I know that this might seem obvious after rereading the poem and interpreting the images, but when I reread the poem to day, it hit me.  The poem is getting over a sense of depression, maybe even suicide.  I keep thinking to myself why I missed that?  I think the answer is on the notes I made on the page.  I'll get to those in a minute.

The first line of the poem is a simple command "Wait" followed by "Distrust everything if you have to."  For past me, I attributed this to Descartes theory of radical doubt.  However, what the line implies is to distrust oneself as well as the world.  So when you can't even trust your own thoughts, "trust the hours."

Time, what does time bring -- something eventual.  "Hair will be come interesting / pain will become interesting."  Furthermore, I misappropriated lines because I commented on this line, "Buds that open out of season will become lovely again." Past me questioned these lines as, "physical will be 'lovely again'"  No, not the right way to read these lines.  The lines are endstopped with a focus on every single concept -- they are separate entities that should pile up rather than merge together.

However, these reasoning lines should merge together:

     [...] that enormous emptiness
     carved out of such tiny beings as we are
     asks to be filled; the need
     for the new love is faithfulness to the old

So the leaving and coming of love is important here.  The speaker focuses on getting over these moments with time.  And, although the lines feel ripped from a self-help book, the lines do what they need to do.

Because the second reiteration of "wait" is at the pass point.  It's as though the subject is ignoring the advice from the first stanza.  I think past me misinterpreted these lines, "You're tired.  But everyone's tired. / But no one is tired enough"  past me thought that this was the speaker, "judging and dictating" the subject to live.  Rather, I read this line as everyone has things to deal with, but there's no point where a person should be "tired" enough.

And then time again, "Music of hair, / Music of pain," where the objects turn more metaphorical, more idealistic -- as though to be enticing and merging. "Music of looms weaving all our loves again"  I thought this line referred to Penelope.  And the last four lines

     Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
     most of all to hear,
     the flute of your whole existence,
     rehearsed by the sorrows, lay itself into total exhaustion.

I thought these lines referred to Orpheus.  And, perhaps, they do.  But note how the speaker should be tired, but exhaustion has more of a positive connotation -- at least the chance to be heard and recognized -- by love?  by others?  by existence?