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.


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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.

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