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.

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