Thursday, November 20, 2014

Analysis of "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief" by Maxine Kumin

Poem found here: "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief" by Maxine Kumin



An airport as a metaphor for transitioning to the afterlife.  But this poem is a bit tongue in cheek too.  The poem is in two octaves and a quatrain with each stanza going closer and closer and then expanding outward from the speaker.

     Blue landing lights make
     nail holes in the dark.
     A fine snow falls.   We sit
     on the tarmac taking on[...]

So stopping here before the list of things occurs. note how the focus is on the play of dark an light in the beginning and also how the snow appears -- fine, small enough to look at individually in general which foreshadows the way the speaker sees who is going aboard with her:

     the mail, quick freight,
     trays of laboratory mice,
     coffee and Danish for
     the passengers

Note how personal these items appear to others "mail, quick freight", then dispassionate, "trays of laboratory mice" to something for the passengers, coffee and Danish.  What I think the speaker is doing is observing the surroundings as though to be placed in the surroundings -- this is currently what is going on which changes later in the poem.  But now the focus is back on the speaker:

     Wherever we're going
     is Monday morning
     Wherever we're coming from
     is Mother's lap

Note the end rhyme in the first two lines and the repetition of "whenever" which adds a sense of nursery rhyme to the poem.  Note the other half of the phrase also starts with an "M' which brings an extended alliteration.  These techniques seem to ease the speaker -- something consistent when facing something metaphorical:

     On the cloud-pack above, strewn
     as loosely as parsnip
     of celery seeds, he
     the souls of the unborn:

The poem takes a serious turn not only in image, but with the admission of the "souls of the unborn" -- when I stated this poem was tongue in cheek in the beginning -- yes, the items and the techniques were a bit cutsey, but the souls of the unborn brings a sense of gravity and tension to the poem which is then disperses with the repetition of "my children's children's children and their father"  it's not the content, it's the approach.  The list is so vast and so simple that it's confusing -- nothing is direct and pointed, but it is specific to the speaker at the same time.

"We gather speed for the last run / and lift off into the weather."  These lines seems to be cliche with the idea of "the last run" and "lift off into the weather" but I'm fine with the last lines being a bit cliche.  The end seems so dismissive compared to the immediacy.  It's like the speaker is changing emotions mid-poem, mid-flight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Analysis of "Rosewater" by Nikos Gatsos

Poem found here: "Rosewater" by Nikos Gatsos



Grief.  The first lines of the poem uses high metaphor in order to express and mask the speaker's grief, "When you reach that other world, don't become a cloud / don't become a cloud, and the bitter star of dawn, / so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door."

Here's the trick with the first few lines.  The conceit of the dead happens with the first phrase of "When you reach that other world" and the focus is the separation between the speaker and the "you" speaker -- words apart.

Then there's the repetition of "don't become a cloud" which I take as a ubiquitous transformation metaphor with a catch.  Note how the metaphor expands outward to "the bitter star of dawn". Yes, the adjective of bitter tells much about the speaker's perspective on this grief, but what's more telling is the line, "so that your mother knows you, waiting at her door" which shows that even though the speaker is disassociated with the "you," the mother still knows.  It's that fear of not grieving enough.

"Take a wand of willow, a root of rosemary / a root of rosemary, and be moonlit coolness / falling in the midnight in your thirsting courtyard."  These lines have a fantastical feel about them.  I'm not sure how "willow" and "rosemary" work as far as symbols.  But note how the "you" is not a cloud, but rather a being (ethereal perhaps) that wants and holds things.

"I give you rosewater to drink" this poem is aptly named rosewater.  Even without knowing all the connotations of rosewater the comparison continues with, "you game me poison."  Yes, poison could be the grief the speaker is dealing with and the rosewater is how the speaker is keeping the "you" alive through this poem, but note how the speaker built up this metaphor through the fantastical and high imagery.

This line line I'm unsure about, "eaglet of the frost, hawk of the desert."  Two different beings in two different worlds.  Who is the eaglet, who is the hawk if this is indeed a comparative metaphor between the speaker and the "you"?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Analysis of "Minnows 2" by Ray Amorosi

Poem found here: "Minnows 2" by Ray Amorosi


Situational awareness.  This is a term that I here often where I live, meaning, this poem, to me is about the surroundings and how the surroundings influence the speaker's wanderings.

"Whatever the cost I pay up at the minnow pools, / I don't know anything of the misery of these trapped fish / or the failure of the marsh I'm so hidden."  Regardless of how the scenery is, the speaker places himself in there to comment about what he knows or doesn't know -- well more likely doesn't know: doesn't know the cost, doesn't know misery, and doesn't know failure.  Apathy.

"Up above the island with its few houses facing / the ocean God walks with anyone there."  So the tone here is more informative than moving, but note that the mention of the speaker shows more of a separation since there is a lack of action with the acknowledgement, "I often / slosh through the low tide to a sister / unattached to causeways."  The question of "who is sister" or "what does the sister represent."  With the context of the poem the sense of apathy is added onto with the verb "slosh" as well.

"It's where deer mate then lead their young / by my house to fields, again up above me."  The tone is informative, but the twist in the language is, "again up above me" where there is a god and a sister but not the speaker.

"Pray for me."  This is situational awareness when the speaker knows the situation around him, but also knows that he's writing for a reader -- who?  Who knows and who cares?  "Like myself be lost / An amulet under your chest, a green sign of the first / rose you ever saw, the first shore."  Now the focus is on the "you" introduced in this section.  And everything is the first, even the prayer.

"Then I wash my horse, dogs, me behind the barn. / Only the narrow way leads home."  So there's a sense of cleansing, but it's mundane and informational which makes the last line, which seems a little cliche, into something a bit more cynical.  A sort of everyday cleanse.  A sort of narrow road that actually does lead home.  Nothing more.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Analysis of "Long Trail" by Stephen Scaer

Poem found here: "Long Trail" by Stephen Scaer


This is an Elizabethan sonnet in which there is a comparison between two different ideals and sometimes people.  This separation is indicated in the first line, "You can spot the better hikers by".  And so starts the conceit of what it means to be a better "hiker."

"the lightness of their steps, and how their packs / seem much too small.  They've learned they shouldn't try / to carry their whole lives across their backs."  Note aspect that's most prominent to me in this poem is the speaker's tone -- a little sarcasm through cliches "lightness of their steps, " over embellishment, "packs seem too small," and then embellishment, "to carry their whole lives across their backs.

But the poet goes even further with the tone, "Inside their tidy rectangles they keep / the minimum they need to make their homes."  Compartmentalized, compressed, clean -- the speaker is showing the "ideal" through sarcasm but isn't placing a named judgement, just implied passive-aggressiveness, "They eat two protein bars and fall asleep, / snug inside their instant nylon domes."  The nylon domes is an interesting image which I can't comprehend image wise except that these hikers are surrounded by something that drapes well and is fragile.

Then comes the introduction of the speaker to contrast the serene hiker image, "Though I go hiking several times a year, / I always carry much more than I need:"  of course this list has metaphorical implications as well as literal ones, "outside, my pack hung with cooking gear," something to cook with, "inside, the books I probably won't read;" This is based on unrealized intentions, "and when I raise my tent, unwelcome guests / crowd a cluttered mind that never rests."  So with the couplet (which should be the volta) there is a comparison between the physical preciseness of the hikers and the speaker's psychological mess which is filled with unfulfilled intentions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Analysis of "A Man Young and Old III. The Mermaid" by William Butler Yeats

Poem found here: "A Man Young and Old" III. The Mermaid" by William Butler Yeats


This poem is like an Aesop fable even with the didactic message at the end.  And even though this poems intent is a bit obvious after reading the poem, it doesn't mean that this poem cannot bear interest after each read.

"A mermaid found a swimming lad, / Picked him for her own, / Pressed her body to his body."  At face value, this beginning has the mermaid take the lad as her own.  But note, there is no mention of love, just ownership.  Also, when her body presses up against his there's a sense of fusion or rather something akin to Adam and Eve, Eve and Adam.

"Laughed; and plunging down / Forgot in cruel happiness / That even lovers drown."  It's not the didactic tale that keeps me reading this poem, it's how the poem is shaped syntactically.  The stand alone verb of "Laughed" reinforced the past tense with a more visual verb (pressed is visual too, but not as "human" as laughed).  And then when they plunge down, they forget with "cruel happiness"  here the adjective/noun combination which brings a sense of irony foreshadows the didactic end.

"That even lovers drown"  I guess this could be a play on the inability of looking at death when in love or how the twisting of emotions that makes up love makes us blind.  The poem is didactic, but what is the lesson learned?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Analysis of "A Hundred Years from Now" by David Shumate

Poem found here: "A Hundred Years from Now" by David Shumate


A self-eulogy.  The speaker himself as the specter of the past trying asking someone in some time about the future, "I'm sorry I won't be around a hundred years from now.  I'd like to see how it all turns out."   These feel like ending lines of a self-eulogy, but these lines serve as an opening on how "it all turns out."

"What language most of you are speaking. What country is swaggering across the globe."  For me, the verb of swaggering brings in a different appeal to the poem. Granted, I have a negative connotation with the verb (swag), but at least this is a signal of how the language changes through the rhetorical questions.

"I'm curious to know if your medicines cure what ails us now. And how intelligent children are as they parachute down through the womb."  There are two important aspects of this poem.  One, instead of the poem being complete rhetorical questions, the speaker breaks up the punctuation with a period and conjunction.  In this way, the speaker is still asking a question without being redundant.  Two, it's the verb that makes the scenarios a bit surreal -- "parachute," "cure" -- pay attention on how these verbs operate.

"Have you invented new vegetables?  Have you trained spiders to do your bidding?  Have baseball and opera merged into one melodic sport?"  Now this part is a bit silly, but also note that the tempo of question, question, question adds speed to the poem.  These questions are meant to be a bit silly, not thought hard upon -- just a bunch of questions added to what the future might be.

"A hundred years...." An ellipses. This forces the speaker to be in a thought process or to consider the next lines more of the speaker's thoughts rather than the speaker's questions.

"My grandfather lived almost that long.  The doctor who came to the farmhouse to deliver him arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.  Do you still have horses?"

The speaker talks about the age of his grandfather and withe the personal anecdote asks the final question, "Do you still have horses?"  How to take the last rhetorical question?  Certainly, there could be a case of it being humorous in the poem due to how the questions were set up in the poem.  But this particular question has a story behind it.

There could be something like "who will take you away when you get that old?" or "if a strong symbol of the past goes away what is there left in the future?" Maybe, maybe.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Analysis of "Clonazepam" by Donald Dunbar

Poem found here: "Clonazepam" by Donald Dunbar



Clonazepam is a drug that treats a variety of diseases or symptoms like MS, Anxiety, panic disorders, or alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

And the first line of the poem plays with the idea of something being solved. "Finally, stability."  These two words set the pace of the poem -- a sense of finality or perhaps what constitutes as stability, "Finally, the fractal iteration of kings."  Definitions.

"The legless herds lie still in the fields / and eventually the fences crumble / and the wilderness returns."   Here the return of the pastoral has a sense of cynicism behind it because there is no basis -- finality and stability breaks down to the fractal iteration -- something is being hidden in the pieces.

"Like cinnamon coaxed back out of the tongue, / this book is a formalist approach for a kiss. / or vice versa."  The level of self-awareness of the speaker debunks the stability set in the beginning.  Well not so much.  What is stable is the inconsistent direction, but interesting ideas.  The burning sensation of something sweet like cinnamon and a kiss is compare.  But also note the "formalist approach" is self-referential to the poem and to the collection as well.

Then the speaker continues to riff off the images, "Like a kiss / is oblivious, they don't know their homestead is meat;  is meat and an age of eternal iteration."  These lines cascade down together in a sense.  From the image simile of a kiss, to meat, back to the notion of iteration.  What is interesting here is the introduction of "they" which doesn't point to anything in the poem other than "kings."  So these lines have a "higher" implication as far as nobility and perhaps rhetoric is concerned.  "Eternal iteration" is not thrown around in a daily basis.

The idea of "finally" returns back to the last stanza, "Finally I have met you / in this video of cyborgs making out, making out / with androids in the comments below."  These lines have a flair of the contemporary.  Gone are the pastoral and personal images, they are tied up in these lines of technology.  Cyborgs are machines/man and androids are pure machines with a human appearance, if I get my terminology correct.

So facsimiles are making out with facsimiles.  Learn more on the (clickbait) comments below.  There's humor here.  But the finality of the poem from time to subject ends with what others think and not what the speaker can conjure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Analysis of "Smartmouth and the Mysteries" by James Malone Smith

Poem found here:  "Smartmouth and the Mysteries" by James Malone Smith


This poem has a mixture of couplets and singular lines.  But what intrigues me with this poem is how the religious references play into the poem and the perspective, first person, applies such religious icons to the speaker.

"Year upon year I know less and less / about time.  It gits like nobody's business,"  Note how the first line depends on the enjambment.  How the line expresses an overall lack of knowledge to a specific source, time.   But the following made me think of what "gits" mean.   Maybe it's more of a colloquial term depending on the speaker, or perhaps, just forced perspective from the overall theoretical intro line.  The focus, in the end, is back to the speaker.

"though I suspicion it is not.  Verily, / I am content with dust snug in corners. / I wander around scroungy as John the Baptist"  First, the suspicion line feels out of place grammatically, but it goes along with how the sentence is structured with "git."  Something that doesn't fit right then goes with the images of the speaker content with dust and the "scroungy as John the Baptist" line.

Note how the John the Baptist line seems to be more visual, but the speaker cannot run away from the allusion of John the Baptist (well the speaker isn't even trying to).  What I mean is that the religious implications of the icon colors how the next lines will be seen.  John the Baptist, someone who foretold the messiah.

"And no longer implored to worship anything, / free of idol chitcat, I snoop about the premises."  Here's the interesting thing.  The colloquial seems to fit because it was foreshadowed by the language in the beginning of the poem, but this seems like a post religious self.  Instead of proclaiming, the speaker is exploring, "At Easter Vigil the priest has angels at the tomb / and a mirth quake."  Okay, mirth quake is a pun that has religious implications.  But the thing to note is how the speaker switches to the priest but quickly "mocks" the presence and continues to do so.

"Shaken, he addressed / the State of the Jungian, and God's rabbity / elbow in my ribs made me jump and yelp."  The way the speaker comes back to the poem is how the priest (shaken) has a silent address (nothing is being said but action) which then goes to God's rabbity which then goes back to the speaker -- moves the speaker to jump and yelp.  It's the speaker that actually moves and observes.  The final three lines takes a complete shift of focus.

"So when I read in a caption, 'Maryland woman / now Buddhist lama,' I hear my often-- / misquoted mother driving her enormous car."

This poem feels like that the speaker is built up to this.  The foreteller of nothing and the feeler of God's on rabbity is reading a caption which is outside knowledge.  And the caption is of another religious icon, although a bit parodied, "Buddhist lama" but the speaker kind of undercuts the icon with it being "misquoted" like the mother driving her enormous car.

I don't know how to interpret the mother driving her enormous car as something on the outside different than the inside -- physically speaking.  Maybe the mom is enormous though to match her car, but it seems like the poem plays with opposites.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Analysis of "My Kind of Love Poem" by Rafael Campo

Poem found here: "My Kind of Love Poem" by Rafael Campo
Author Website: Rafael Campo


So the melody of the poem pulls the poem a little too close and a little too intimate  within itself.  The question being what is "My Kind of Love Poem" -- a more content driven title.  But I contend that this poem may or may not depend on the content rather how the poem adapts to the content.

For example, the first two lines, "Unluckily, the day begins: a bomb / has detonated in Mumbai. Again,"  So the content is grounded more or less in reality, but note how the internal rhyme of "begins" and "again" flow within the poem.  Note how the sound of the poem has this sense of routine.  So the rhetorical question, "we ask ourselves: Is this what we've become?" which is a bit broad, but brings a collective concious to this "love poem."

The speaker repeats "Unluckily" as though to continue the descent, "Unluckily, the night has eyes.  A train makes music of the city's sleeplessness again:"  Here note how the usage of again keeps inferring itself into the poem.  This scene, these things:

     A baby shrieks with hunger or
     the need to have its diaper changed.  Unless
     he finds a job, the man who lives next door
     will have to go on unemployment.

These things repeat itself.  Weirdly, the poem goes in different directions as far as theme and tone go for me.  "My kind" isn't referring to preference rather the lifestyle the speaker leads.  This is his kind of love poem -- unique to himself.  And isn't the best kind of love the most consistent through the worst of the worst? "Bomb / explode in other places, ruining / other lives, scarring other faces."  Again the internal rhyme of "faces" and "places" adds to the generalization (or perhaps rationalization) that these things happen everywhere -- but note that these things, perhaps unique to the speaker are all external and not so personal -- broad strokes on a large canvas.

The last lines seems the most personal -- and the most ambition

     [...] Crumbs
     form constellations in my sink.  The ring
     of doorbells, telephones, and certain phrases:
     The night dies.  Unlucky Saturn rises.

It's not important on the direction the poem is going, what matters is the direction -- outside of the self, the personal, and away from the constant violent setting on the outside.  These haiku-esque lines goes from "crumb" to "Saturn" through a flow of sonic and visual images.

I can't dismiss 2/3 of the violent and depressing lines for this "love poem" though the ambitious end.  What makes this "kind of love poem" unique is not the images, but the lake of judgement on both sides.  As though to accept the constant violence and the unknown beyond.  In unison, perhaps, but both existing side by side, at least in this poem.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Analysis of "A Crazed Girl" by William Butler Yeats

Poem found here: "A Crazed Girl" by William Butler Yeats


So when I reread this poem, the pop image that came to my mind was Sia's video "Chandelier".  Beautiful, artistic, but looks crazed.

It's not that the girl in this poem is "crazed" -- this doesn't define her -- rather what is the cause of the "crazed emotion."  And, this poem being a bit vers libre and a but reverse sonnet, proclaims here core passion, "That crazed girl improvising her music / Her poetry, dancing upon the shore."  Her music, her poetry.

Note the first stanza is more of an interpretation of her actions from the speaker upon seeing her art, "Her soul in division from itself / Climbing, falling she knew not where, / Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship."  Note how the speaker starts creating a narrative of this crazed girl as to understand her actions, "Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare / A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing / Heroically lost, heroically found."  What he impresses onto her is the idea of heroism on going through the narrative.  Maybe the narrative is true.  Maybe the narrative is something the speaker concocted, but in any case the speaker sees something heroic, something beyond her -- a symbol, an art.

"No matter what disaster occurred / She stood in desperate music wound, / Wound, wound,"  What gets me is the repetition of "wound" which shows the subject as either being hurt or being vulnerable, or both, but the speaker sees this as something heroic -- this girl stands with regardless of her wounds "and she made in her triumph"

The shift in image kind of pulls back from the crazed girl and looks at her surrounding or rather the effect that happens around her, "Where the bales and the baskets lay / No common intelligible sound / But sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea.'"  A part of me wants to focus on the sea imagery and how lonely it sounds, just like the scene where no one is around her (or understand her sound).  But there's a certain sense of individual with this crazed girl.  The speaker sees her as heroic in her individuality.  But perhaps, she actually feels alone like the sea.  Impressions are one things, but quoting what the girl "actually" says is another.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Analysis of "Complete Destruction" by William Carlos Williams

Poem found here: "Complete Destruction" by William Carlos Williams


This is a parody of "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost.  Both poems have a sense of humor about destruction, but this poem is more personal, I suppose.  Well.

     It was an Icy day,
     We buried the cat.
     then took her box
     and set it on fire

So there's the place of the initial lines of "Fire and Ice" content and structure wise -- discussion about the duality of fire and ice.

      Some say the world will end in fire,
      Some say in ice.
      From what I’ve tasted of desire
      I hold with those who favor fire.

But what differs is the personal nature of Williams.  The ice is attributed to the day, and the fire is something to cleanse the box; meanwhile, Frost takes more of an ideological stance on destruction.

The last four lines of Williams poem does go more ideological, but in a humorous way:

     In the back yard.
     Those fleas that escaped
     earth and fire
     died in the cold.

The humor is the introduction of the fleas and, regardless of circumstance, would die in fire or in ice.  But behind these lines, there's no choice -- eventually, these "pests" will die by their surroundings.  Comparatively speaking, Frost's last lines are humorous because of a faux choice.

     But if it had to perish twice,
     I think I know enough of hate
     To say that for destruction ice
     Is also great
     And would suffice

This stanza hinges on the line, "Is also great" to redirect a sense of seriousness of the choice between fire and ice.  The end of Frost's poem ends a bit more humorously on the ideology, but Williams is a bit more of a downer when thought about, just a smidge.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Analysis of "The Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Carol Light

Poem Found Here: "The Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Carol Light


This poem is "freely after Rilke" -- Rilke's Archaic Torso of Apollo.  While Rilke's poem has more of an existential  -- this poem has a tongue and cheek feel starting with the first line, "This guy's lost his head but, Jesus," through the tone.  From the lost head the speaker focuses on that luscious body:

     what radiance gleams beneath the pectorals,
     and, as the eye follows the contours
     south towards genesis, well,
     one could go blind smiling.

The lines feel tongue in cheek in what past me called, "physical reverence."  Who doesn't like a some good pectorals and contours?  However, the poem turns a bit with the innuendo of "genesis" for the male part.  Yes, the humor is in innuendo, but there's something too tactful about the word choice.  And the poem goes somewhat into it after the stanza break.

On a side note, this poem isn't a sonnet like Rilke's, but emulates the sonnet form -- at least with the sestet at the end, "Sure, the surface is stone, chipped / here and there, but who wouldn't be taken / by those shoulders, and underneath.  As the poem goes on with the physical appearance and the acceptance of "chips on the shoulder" the poem turns a bit with the word, "underneath."  What is underneath this physical perfection with slight faults?

"can't you see the blazer? A star / goes nova inside you.  You can't hide / anymore. You must get a life."  The poem ends a bit tongue in cheek about getting a life, but the poem is about how the realization occurs.  Note that the perfection on the outside is enticing, but how can it compare to a star going supernova.  Such contained combustion shouldn't be.  I'm not so sure about the blazer line though.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Analysis of "Atmosphere" by Maxine Chernoff

Poem found here: "Atmosphere" by Maxine Chernoff


Montaigne

The existential crisis brought on by the surroundings or what is there to think about trapped because of the atmosphere?

"Rain pummels windows, words unshake trees"  Note the shift between image and metaphor and how the combine together without an conjunction, they just exist together.  But, for me, the metaphor has the greater impact in the line because I'm curious what "words" the speaker is referring to.  "I have not looked outside all-night."  In any case these words aren't visual, something maybe more auditory or conjured in the mind.

"As if distance were merely a loose wire."  Loose wire to what?  I think the idea here is how someone deals with a loose wire -- a reconnect from distance.  "We are talking, nowhere but here / and here, my love."  Something tells me to take the idea of talking as connecting with a grain of salt due to the previous line which makes the line of "my love" twinge a bit with sadness.

"I do not doubt your existence--any more than I can walk on he ocean / floor (nonchalantly as a ghost)."  This line reminds me most of "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock"  "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas."  But the most important part of the line is how the parenthetical is distancing the speaker from the subject -- not really non-chalantly as a ghost on the page, but in context.

"Shut in winter's house, not epic's dark gray, trees without corollary, a / small flame wavering as shadows burn and waver."  Note the shift between the overall scene of winter which is then compared to the focused singular flame in which the "shadows burn and waver."  This separation of extremes of a cold outside and a "wavering" flame could represent the external and the internal or the self and the other -- in any case the distance goes further and further.

"Something expert closes a gap in curtains."  This line makes sense and doesn't at the same time.  The trajectory of the poem relates to the distance here, but the personal usage of "curtains" and "expert" are suspect.  Then I thought about how an expert is created -- someone or something that has survived the turbulence of the subject -- the speaker has gone through this type of distance before, "I'll repeat, then you: this / gaping vault we'll fill with clocks and days and numbers.  There is only / time."  I feel these lines are self-explanatory as far as the content is concerned.   The proclamation of that there only being time is the speaker's perception.  Or rather the speaker knows that there is only time and that keeps the slightest connection through the distance.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Analysis of "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel

Poem found here:  "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel


So everything depends on how to interpret the last two lines of the poem.  I've been going back and forth on how I feel about it.

However, let's start in the beginning.  The poem starts out with an informational tone:
   
     In the 5th century B.C.
     an Indian philosopher
     Gautama teaches 'All is emptiness'
     and 'There is no self'

This is the conceit of the poem in which the Barbie figure responds to.  I think the build up here is the response and the informational tone is more of the "straight man" premise to the "humorous response.  Note how this section is a quatrain and how the next part (still within the same stanza) is a quatrain as well:

     In the 20th century A.D.
     Barbie agrees, but wonders how a man
     with such a belly could pose,
     smiling, and without a shirt.

The first line referencing time feels like an inversion of what would be normally stated, "In the 20th century" with the A.D. being superfluous, but the A.D. is important to this section to continue the connection between Barbie and Gautama.

When the Barbie figure agrees, the question that always runs through my mind is how this figure interprets the phrase "All is emptiness" and "There is no self."  In some ways, I can take this as a very cynical approach to see Barbie as a vapid nobody dress up doll with no concrete personality or self at all -- just the imposed one by people.  I feel this is a set in stone case for the end with the exception of the last two lines.

It's how you interpret the last two lines, "with such a belly could pose, / smiling, without a shirt."  Yes, this could add to the vapidness of the barbie, but my question to myself is "emotion, acceptance, attachment to the body doesn't that fulfill a person or rather go against the mantra of 'emptiness'"

And then backtrack, Barbie is the perfect representation of Buddhism based on the quotes, "All is emptiness" and "There is no self" based on my definition, and, weirdly, Gautama doesn't represent this in his depiction, rather the opposite -- everyone knows Gautama's self as a big bellied smiling man.  How can there be emptiness with a beggar bowl in the hand.

What I'm trying to write is not to dismiss the last two lines of the poem as something vapid and characteristic of the materialistic Barbie, maybe Barbie, through her observation, is the epitome of Buddhism.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Analysis of "Sauget Dead Wagon" by Steve Davenport

Poem found here in the comment section of my previous post until Steve Davenport decides to delete it or not: "Sauget Dead Wagon" by Steve Davenport



If that wandering gritty mid-west Americana bard replies to this analysis with another poem, I'll try to contain myself from posting my analysis of that poem the next day -- I'd still analyze the crap out of it though in my own personal time and post it at a later time and date.

However, Steve Davenport's reply to my previous analysis of his poem hit a couple of weak spots of mine.  1) My MFA thesis is titled "Tourist in the Red Light District" which has similar themes and ideas that continue to interest me and 2) I'm pretty sure a good portion of my blog covers formal poetry from around the world: ghazals, sonnets, ballads, rhymed quatrains or couplets, terza rima, haiku, tankas.  So this poem, a hard rhymed villanelle with a lack of punctuation, it's too difficult for me to resist.  And, yes, I know that Steve Davenport has a well written sestina as well, but I can only analyze so much and post.

So the haze that I wrote about in my last analysis continues with this poem due to the lack of punctuation adding a sense of speed to the language, but a slow down of thought (where should a line end) and with the added information that this is about a very specifc place -- the "rough end of Illinois with hookers, poverty and gangs" that my coworker from Illinois told me (paraphrased) there's the added slow down of trying to figure how the poem relates to place.  There's a bit of disconnect with the form and the subject already through the form.

But the refrain lines for this villanelle "Down to Sauget and all that hell" and "Carrying things from fall to fell" are used, language and semantics wise, to the tee.  But what stands out in the first stanza is the line, "The bodies come the bodies go" which devalues the body as an object and, for me, the actions are consistent, it's what's belittled and devalued that has my focus.

"To ashes ashes ring the bell / Dead wagon going coming slow / Down the Sauget and all that hell"  Note the repetition of ashes in the first line and the hard rhyme scheme forces a simplicity onto the a difficult subject as though to be like a nursery rhyme or a drinking song (what's the difference really) and the adjective verb of "Dead wagon" coming off humorously because of the rhyme and the simplicity.  It's as though the speaker belittles the experience, but there's something off with the next stanza.

"Yellow grease bone chips a smell / A body never wants to know / Carrying things from fall to fell"  The list of descriptors in the first line creates a very vivid smell image which goes against the sort of "play" in the previous stanzas; furthermore, there's a sense of gravity with "A body never wants to know"  -- this is more of a projected line than a personal line to me, the speaker relating experience rather than the reader observing the speaker's experience.

This sense of projection continues with, "Who cares what doesn't render well / Until the wind begins to blow / Down to Sauget and all that hell"  Past me wrote "prophetic rhetorical question"  Or rather, there is a sense of frustration from the speaker about the rhetoric and style the poem is in -- the little nouns and actions always continues always the reference to the Dead wagon which comes to sell and pick up dead bodies high and low -- and always carrying things from fall to fell" the present (fall) to the past (fell).

Now I somewhat kid with the phrase "wandering gritty mid-west Americana bard" as something endearing, but, when it comes down to it, the speaker solidifies himelf as a bard with the very sharp line of, "I say fuck this villanelle"

Bards write poems for the people about the people  -- just straight up -- Whitman, the American Bard, writes about peoples experience, but also places himself as the savior, chronicaller, voice of the people.  This speaker, by denouncing the form rather than the experience, is going back to the people and so the final lines of the poem resonate as a call to action, "That can't stop what's got to go / Down to Sauget and all that hell / Carrying things from fall to fell."  The speaker appears to attack "what's got to go" -- something to break this cycle.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Analysis of "Life" by Steve Davenport

Poem can be found here in the comment section until he deletes it if he wants to: "Life" by Steve Davenport 



Before I get started with this analysis I want to write that I was going to do a different poem today, but I was intrigued at Steve Davenport's response to my analysis about James Wright's "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota."

I analyzed a poem by Steve Davenport ,"Ministry Today" from his collection Overpass, wow, years ago.  What also intrigued me about "Life" was I could get a sense of a theme from Overpass (which I still need to get) from just these two poems:  the wandering gritty mid-west Americana bard.

But this analysis is about "Life".

The interesting thing about this poem from the outset from a comparative angle are the specific stanza breaks: sestet, quatrain, and single line which I find the opposite of lazy (which was a theme in my analysis of James Wright poem) but rather specific, but not too specific (it's not like it's all quatrains or sestets).

The poem starts out with a specific image of a bridge, "Across the bridge from downtown St. Louis, / it's Ballet du Sauget" followed by a specific location.  But note that the placement of the speaker is based around the area.  The speaker is not relying on images rather place-marks.

The next three lines of the poem dictate more of the mood of the poem through language and sound rather than place, "Women at work / moving the wet middle of ripe motion / around the poles on rubber mats down a clean road."  Yes, the images are specific (and also mimic Pound a bit here with "wet" a bit) but note the focus here is "motion."  Content wise, the motion of the women at work cleaning the road could symbolize an opening away from the direct place.  But, for me, the strongest impact of these lines are the alliteration of "w" and "r" which makes it hard to pin down the poem.  I feel this specific phrasing of the inability to be pinned down says more about the speaker than the observation.

Then the poem list places as place-marks, "Monsanto, Big River Zinc Smeltery, / American Bottoms Treatment Plant / and Deer Creek."  Yes, there's a sort of descent from big city place to more of nature.  This could represent a return of some sorts, but I also feel the listing of places adds to the haze of the speaker -- the language and the listing adds a sense of wanderlust.

Now the poem goes to a specific time frame, "That summer evening we rode the bottom / before the game, windows open, passing / the bottle, roads we didn't know, the weed."  So these lines confirm a couple of my analytic points. But more importantly, this is the introduction of the speaker into the place-marks and how he reacts to such haze with specific actions and time.  "That summer evening" indicates that the speaker is looking back at a moment; furthermore, the line "before the game" could be read as literal or metaphorically inclusive to the poem as the speaker is playing word and language games as well.

Then the drinking and the weed -- which, actually, adds a physical haze to the poem along with the language and the places.  The speaker is not necessarily lost in the haze, but rather celebrating it with the final line of, "I did not waste my life."

Comparatively, with the Wright poem, the more specific the speaker became the more the speaker realized that he wasted his life; meanwhile, the more the speaker in "Life" goes further and further into the haze, the more the speaker feels that his life is not a wasted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Analysis of "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" by James Wright

Poem Found Here: "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" by James Wright



The poem is lazy, both in content and in form.  Short lines, long lines, referencing other lines to get a point across, stationary, laziness.  The act of inaction is apparent in the poem, but the speaker's transformation about the subject and about himself shifts throughout the poem.

"Over my head, I see a bronze butterfly, / Asleep on the black trunk"  These lines could reference Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" through the image (butterfly like petals, black trunk like a black bough(, but the comparison ends here.  What is important with these lines is to note how observant and whimsical the speaker is about his surrounding and cognizant enough to crate artifices from them (maybe).

"Blowing like a leaf in green shadow, / Down the ravine behind the empty house, / This cowbells follow one another."  For a short poem, there's an emphasis on empty direction.  What I means is that that there's basically screen shots and transitions, but the end result is "the cowbells" -- something audible, but holds no significant meaning.  It's the transition to the time, place, setting, "Into the distances of the afternoon," that feel empty.

"To my right,"  A simple shorted line transitions the poem to something else, but this is obvious, "In a field of sunlight between two pines, / The droppings of last year's horses / Blaze up into golden stones,"  Here is where the metaphor goes a little to far.  I've fallen in love with the laziness of the poem -- the emptiness of transition, the apathy of images.  Here the poem tries to make something out of the images -- the last years horse droppings being golden might seem out of place, but the attempt foreshadows the end of the poem.

"I lean back, as the evening darkness and comes on. / A chicken hawk floats away, looking for home,"  Here, when the poem introduces the speaker, he's observing himself just like the previous lines -- first as just simple lazy observations to trying to make a metaphor.  Here, with these two simple lines he relates to the hawk with the personificated line of "looking for a home."

This is why the end is so devastating, "I have wasted my life."  Regardless of how the speaker thinks of himself, there's still inaction through the metaphors, the similes, the observations.  Here is the emotion that moves the poem, a simple confession at the end of a beautiful artifice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Analysis of "'Gymnopédies No. 3'" by Adrian Matejka

Poem found here:  "'Gymnopédies No. 3'" by Adrian Matejka


I'm not sure if this poem is referring to the compositions by Erik Satie or if the title refers to this sort of whimsy and dance found in the poem.  Does the poem depend on the title?  Honestly, I'm not too sure, since when I was reading the poem I was focused on the flow and movement of the images and lines.

"This sunlight on snow."  A very focused image descends, "this decrescendo / of covered stomps & brush / stop for it"  The poem has a commanding tone which is subdued by the nature imagery.  But the focus is on this light and to "stop" for it.

This repetition of "stop" continues in this poem, "Stop before the shed end- / over-ends / down the chin of the hill--"  Note how the punctuation mimics Cummings, but the way the poem descends on the page has a stronger visual influence to it.  Stop the poem says and read these lines and look at these images.  Every adjusted line seems precise as well.

"the way it always will / at the rock 2/3 of the way down."  The usage of the fraction breaks the tempo of the poem in a good way.  In this way the poem is looked at the fracturing device of adjusted lines and the difference between the sun and the snow.

"Stop & shiver in it: the ring / of snow inside gloves, / the cusp of red forehead"  Note the usage of ring and how this image is used as a simile to the contrasting image of, "like a sun just waiting to top / the hill."  The play continues of sun and snow with actual mention of games, "snowball waiting to be thrown, / every bell-shaped angel / stamped over the brown leaves."

Then the poem goes into the reason from this change of pace -- one that has, in the beginning, this sort of nature reverence quality, to the one of play, "When my daughter ranges / in winter, / she works every dazzling angle --"  These lines might be a little too cute, but I contend the focus on this lines are two fold: 1) To solidify the change in perspective and 2) the line "dazzling angle" is such a encompassing image which tells more about the style and content more than the relationship between the speaker and the snow and daughter.

So the following phrases, adjective/noun combinations, refers also to the dazzling angle, "the crestfallen pine-cones, / the grizzled beards / of bush in the morning."  The personification of the landscape to match the human in nature transition.

"a furnace's windup huffing / in this throat- / clearing of snow."  The final image is inside, but the personification could refer to the idea of "clearing the snow"  the change for the sun -- something brighter no matter how it is seen in different angles.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Analysis of "Early Sunday Morning" by Edward Hirsch

Poem Found Here:  "Early Sunday Morning" by Edward Hirsch


Old man lament in five quatrains.  The interesting thing in this poem is that the poem admits what type of poem this is within the first stanza:

     I used to mock my father and his chums
     for getting up early on Sunday morning
     and drinking coffee at a local spot
     but now I'm one of those chumps.

The first stanza is not only tongue in cheek content wise, but also structure wise with the rhyme and inversion of "chums" (friends) and "chumps" (fools, but the speaker is by himself).  The question then is what the speaker does with this self-awareness -- be cynical about the structure and the idea, be genuine as though to confess some parts of the self.

"No one cares about my old humiliations / but they go on dragging through my sleep"  There's a mix, yes there's humor about no once caring about "old humiliations" -- but the idea is pressed forward to the personal with, "dragging through my sleep" this idea is further internally ingrained with the specific simile of, "like a string of empty tin cans rattling / behind an abandoned car."

The image itself can represent a marriage or a missed connection which is followed up with the next lines, "It's like this: just when you think / you have forgotten that red-haired girl / who left you stranded in a parking lot"  With these lines there is a sense of cynicism about the memory or rather to retell the memory again and again to a reader as though the speaker knows all this already, but the lament comes with, "forty years ago, you wake up / early enough to see her disappearing" to a bit sentimental, "around the corner of your dream" to a bit outlandish, "on someone else's motorcycle / roaring onto the highway at sunrise."

The shift of tones so frequently within three lines feels more genuine to me against the cynicism of the speaker.  This is the emotional draw the speaker feels about the memory -- regardless how real or tangible it is.  These are the speaker's thoughts, not thoughts for show for an audience:

     And so now I'm sitting in a dimly lit
     cafe full of early morning risers
     where the windows are covered with soot
     and the coffee is warm and bitter

Note how the girl leaving at sunrise correlates with the speaker observing the "early risers" with him in the dimly lit cafe.  The speaker acknowledges that people around him too have this lament as they all share the same setting -- windows covered with soot, and the same coffee, warm and bitter.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Analysis of "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allen Poe

Poem Found Here: "A Dream Within a Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe



A rhyming tercet followed by rhyming couplets -- the poem feels connected at first then goes off, trying to keep things together style wise.  Content wise, the poem seems so sure of itself and then the last half of the poem is full of rhetorical questions.

How is the poem so sure of itself in the beginning?  Look at how it starts with a verb and exclamation, "Take this kiss upon the brow! / And, in parting from you now, / Thus much let me avow:"  Look at how the actions are precise and direct from the speaker to the subject.  There's conviction in these lines which decay as the confession continues, "You are not wrong who deem / That my days have been a dream;"  note the semi-colon here which ties in the acknowledgement of the dream with:

     yet if hope has flown away
     In a night, or in a day,
     In a vision, or in none,
     Is it therefore less gone?

The confession of something as a dream is tied into this rhetorical question where the speaker can explain the actions of the dream as something tangible, something flown away any time or if seen or not, it's still gone.  "All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream."  The admission of going and going gone.

"I stand amid the roar / Of a surf-tormented shore," so if we are stuck in the dream, then the metaphors, images, ideas relate to the self...perhaps.  Dreams seem so personal of a concept, I'm trying to figure out how a metaphor would work in a dream, especially since the speaker is discussing this as a confession in first person.  In any case, in this "surf-tormented shore," the speaker continues, "And I hold with my hand / Grains of the golden sand --"  it's the adjectives here that change the context of the poem:

     How few!  yet how they creep
     Through my fingers to the deep,
     While I weep--while I weep!
     O God! can I not grasp
     Them with a tighter clasp?

If you can't tell, I quoted five lines here.  Why?  Here' the continuity of the speaker falling further and lamenting the single bright spot that is tangible for him (gold sand) continues to fall through like his sanity trying to grasp things together.

     O God! can I not save
     One from the pitiless wave?
     Is all that we see or seem
      But a dream within a dream?

Note how the rhetorical questions continue and how focused the speaker is on saving the "one" which seems to be the core of the loss of sanity.  However, the tie in is that the speaker himself sees himself in a dream within a dream (yes, the repetition) or perhaps wants to.  Even within the speaker's dream, there's not much to look forward to.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Analysis of "Harlem [Dream Deferred]" by Langston Hughes

Poem found here: "Harlem [Dream Deferred]" by Langston Hughes


So the version I have of this poem spoils the powerful opening line, "What happens to a dream deferred?"  when, I think it shouldn't.  The poem should start out as "Harlem" which is more an over-encompassing with then the first line asking a very sharp and personal question to the community and the self.

What happens when dreams are put on the side?  I mean people shift their dreams for multiple reasons, but this isn't a poem about that; rather, harshly, the dream is already deferred, so what happens, "Does it dry up / like a raising in the sun?" Exists but deflated, "Or fester like a sore-- / And the run?"  The metaphor with this line goes in different direction. To fester implies to stay in one place and decay, while running means either to let it keep going or to get away.  In this case the ambiguous metaphor is searching for something.  "Or crust and sugar over --  like a syrupy sweet?"  This line has a a sense of cynicism to it with it being "syrupy sweet."  But why?  Note something that something rough like crust and sugar is the noun, syrupy sweet then is the taste -- kind of like glossing over the bitterness of losing a dream with and implied (simile) taste.

The stand alone couplet has more oomph, "Maybe it just sags / like a heavy heart."  A tad sentimental in the list of interesting metaphors and similes to describe dream deferment, but the emotional impact is there.

The last line, "or does it explode?" comes out of left field image wise, but makes sense when connected with the "heart" imagery -- sag or explode -- the explosion being more prominent of when a dream is lost, a slight second of sudden pieces.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Analysis of "Mag" by Carl Sandburg

Poem Found here: "Mag" by Carl Sandburg



The opening line of this poem feels so personal, "I wish to God I never saw you, Mag" that I wondered if this was a confessional poem.  I read snippets of other analysis from other people here and here which discuss Sandburg's personal marriage with Lilian Steichen and his children.  Does this tie in with this poem.  Perhaps.

But I feel the core of this poem, stemming from Sandburg's series of Chicago poems, is more ubiquitous.  And even though the woman is named, it doesn't necessarily have to be about Sandburg, but rather the speaker's frustration about "Mag" and, furthermore, what she represents.

So the poem starts out with the speaker wishing, and the anaphora of wishing continues, "I wish you never quit your job and came along with me. / I wish we never bought a license and a white dress."  Note how the speaker projects his grief on Mag's actions, even if there is a "we" involved.  Mag quit for him.  They bought the dress for mag.

"For you to get married in the day we ran off to a minister"  Note how the speaker uses "you" for marriage as though the speaker doesn't or wasn't a participant.  Of course the "we" runs off to a minister, "And told him we would love each other and take care of each other."  The proclamation.  This is somewhat the core grief that isn't explained in the poem -- a connective promise between the speaker and "Mag" that binds them together.

Or should, "Yes, I'm wishing you lived somewhere away from here."  For me this line has strong implications that Mag is dead.  Not really.  I like to think that the situation at this point is that Mag is dead and the speaker is lamenting her death and tries to displace the blame stating it was "her" actions, but the "we" comes back up which brings the situation back to the speaker.  But, there's no clarification that she's dead, the speaker just wishes for distance, "And I was a bum on the bumpers a thousand miles away dead broke."  The adjective of "dead broke" indicates the play between "life" and "death" and how the speaker wished to trade places with her.  But the line does suggest the speaker would rather go to the extreme.

But in any case the wishing tumbles farther and faster like the line adjustments, "I wish the kids had never come / And rent and coal and clothes to pay for / And a grocery man calling for cash,"  Adult responsibility for the speaker that he's feeling alone in.  Regardless if Mag is alive or dead, the responsibilities of kids and bills start to weigh heavily on the speaker and he'd rather be the "bum" that is "dead broke" -- no responsibilities to others except for self.

"I wish to God I never saw you, Mag. / I wish to God the kids ad never come."  Here the regret come from Mag and the kids as they represent responsibility and perhaps debt.  Now the tricky idea is attachment and love which isn't fully developed in this poem which strengthens the feeling of regret -- overall regret in the poem.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Analysis of "For Once, Then, Something" by Robert Frost

Poem Found Here: "For Once, Then, Something" by Robert Frost



I still don't know how to analyze this poem.  After rereading this poem it seems very uncharacteristic of a Frost poem.  Fifteen lines, no rhyme scheme, no focus on meter.  It seems that this poem is more of Frost's musings and relating his thoughts to the scene.

For example, "Others taught me with having knelt at well-curbs / Always wrong to the light,"  Note how the speaker focuses on what the other's taught him and not focusing on his actions -- the wrongness of light is an interesting generalization, but the poem is just a collection of image generalizaitons: "Deeper down in the well than where the water / Gives me back in a shining surface picture"  The images state something -- there is action behind them, but there are more questions, what is the surface picture?  What shines from the "wrongness of light?"

Then this curious line, "Me myself in the summer heaven godlike".  Yes, the poem could be the contemplation of Frost being in summer, but what does it mean for the speaker to be "me myself"?  I'm not sure.  But I do know that the "well-curb" and the well is a reoccurring image "Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb, / I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture, / Through the picture, a somewhat white, uncertain."  These lines are uncertain.

And I think uncertainty is the point of this poem -- the images have a sense of vagueness, the speaker proclaims himself in god-like summer, but goes back to the depths of the well -- the images and the tone have the speaker looking for something, and even though the speaker has discerned "something," "Something more of the depths--and then lost it, / Water came to rebuke the too clear water."  The sense of irony comes from the line "rebuke the too clear water."  That, in contrast, clarity doesn't answer anything or reveal anything -- it's translucent.

"One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple / Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom / blurred it, blotted it out.  What was that whiteness?" Here, the lack of clarity creates something revealed a sense of "whiteness" which is mostly tangible like the descriptions of these lines.

Then the didactic last line, "Trust? A pebble of quartz?"  The physical is the truth -- or rather what is known.  The poem focuses on the well and the unknown search for unknown answers, "For once, then, something."  Honestly, these last few words don't make sense to me.  "For once" focuses on the brevity of the time frame -- maybe with or without sense, and "then, something" not clarity or truth, just a guide perhaps?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Analysis of "A Happy Man" by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Poem found here: "A Happy Man" by Edwin Arlington Robinson


Written in four quatrains with an aabb rhyme scheme, the structure in the poem is very tight nit, first two lines then a semi-colon then the next two lines and end the sentence.  Each quatrain serves as a different focus on saying goodbye.

     When these graven lines you see,
     Traveller, do not pity me;
     Though I be among the dead,
      Let no mournful word be said.

The conceit is established in the first stanza.  The first two lines address a traveller (the reader) and how the reader should't "pity" -- the semi-colon with the line brings the narrative together relying on the connection of "no pity" being reiterated "let now mournful word be said."

     Children that I leave behind,
     And their children, all were kind;
     Near to them and to my wife,
     I was happy all my life.

At this point and at least for me, I would be highly suspicious about the "happy" man -- how the reader should do the opposite and pity him for his unhappiness of leaving everything behind; however, I feel a certain genuineness with these lines with the language and kind and happy or rather, I don't see the turn in the lines just yet.

     My three sons I married right,
     And their sons I rocked at night;
     Death nor sorrow never brought
     Cause for one unhappy thought.

I think there's multiple reasons why I think this poem is genuine within the third stanza.  The poem has kept uniform up until this point and even the structure of the lines of the "sons" being first then the "I" and then the action.  Furthermore, the actions are so specific "married" and "rocked" that the comparative semi-colon announcing the lack of specificity to the speaker's own emotion belittles the emotional appeal or the chance for the speaker to create self-irony with his narrative.

     Now, and with no need of tears,
     Here they leave me, full of year,
     Leave me to my quiet rest
     In the region of the blest.

Here's where things get interesting.  The lack of the semi-colon opens up the poem for that cynical appeal, and what is focused on with the shift, "Here they leave me, full of year"  Note how the speaker state he's being left behind.  What does this do to the poem?  Does this invalidate his memories as his actions are less important so the family walks away with "full of year" actually meaning the opposite?  I don't know.  It can be.  But the bigger question then would be why overall?  Why should a deadman reiterate how his life was good?

Furthermore, is the plane that the speaker is talking the "region of the blest" a place where the speaker can linger in his own memories of being left behind?  Or is the speaker going back to a different "region of the blest"?  Again I don't know, but I feel arguments could be made on both sides and perhaps the other side would always win.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Analysis of "Token Loss" by Kay Ryan

Poem found here: "Token Loss" by Kay Ryan


"To the dragon / any loss is total" going opposite of the implication of "token" in the title, the contrast stands out more than the premise of the dragon.  This easily could have been a more fantastical poem, but the idea of loss, I feel, stands out because of the opposition therefore making the dragon more to be like a metaphor.

     His rest 
     is disrupted
     if a single
     jewel encrusted 
     goblet has 
     been stolen.

So what does the dragon represent?  Well, in these lines, we learn more that the dragon is "disrupted" when a "single jewel encrusted goblet" is stolen.  There's an implication that there's a lot more treasure that the dragon has.  But what is lost is something small but specific.  A piece of gold or something else would have little or no value to this dragon.  But knowing something small and specific is gone disrupts the dragon.

"The circle / of himself" here's when the poem becomes more metaphorical and ties in the implied treasure and the dragon himself.  If both are considered the same  (the circle of treasure, the circle of himself) then that small specific piece that is gone would impact both, "of his gold / has been / broken"  This is more of a reassuring line.

Then the didactic line of "No / loss is token."  The line itself has serious implications but based on the internal rhyme of "token" and "broken" the line has some slight tongue and cheek overtones.  Ah, but what is lost if this poem and the message is taken too seriously?  The fantastical.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Analysis of "Legacy" by Amiri Baraka

Poem found here: "Legacy" by Amiri Baraka


The poem here starts off with place "In the south," then gains traction by the usage of verbs.  For example, "sleeping against / the drugstore, growling under, the trucks and stores."  The focus here is action; meanwhile, the subject who is making the action is invisible.    But note the usage of verbs here tending to side of animalistic or basic:

  • stubling through and over the cluttered eyes / of early mysterious night
  • frowning / drunk waving moving a hand or lash
There is mention of human action but no actual specific focus on a single one.  Here the speaker is encompassing the "blues people" by their actions

Then the switch to the fun, "Dancing kneeling reaching out, letting / a hand rest in shadows. Squatting / to drink or pee."  The speaker doesn't hold back on the actions, this is not somewhat glamorous action -- these are human actions which bring the groups of people together with "letting a hand rest in shadows" being more poignant metaphorically and "Squatting to drink or pee" being more poignant physically.  The speaker is building up a group -- blues people.

"Stretching to climb / pulling themselves onto horses near / where there was sea."  And as the people climb there's a parenthetical, "(old songs / lead you to believe)" the only one to appear in the poem in which the refer to the past rather than the present action.  Here, the parenthetical serves as a underlying push of the blues people -- "lead you to believe."

Then the leaving based on belief, "Riding out / from this town, to another, where / it is also black."  "Black" holds many metaphorical implications -- the physical darkness, the unknown, the mental escape.  But it's a direction, and the end of the poem starts every phrase with a direction: 

     [...]  Down a road
     where people are asleep.  Towards
     the moon or the shadows of houses.
     Towards the songs' pretended sea.

Note the reference of the sea comes back around at the end.  The "sea" is non existent, but the people keep searching for it physically and within a song.  It is the search beyond the shadows and the moons.  It is the search beyond the people that are asleep which these people aspire to, in which the blues people get past through old beliefs to live by.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hiatus for a Couple of Weeks

Dear 'the spambots' or the unfortunate live reader looking for essay answers,

Unfortunately, I'm having trouble balancing what I need to do at the moment, and I had to make a choice.

I'm choosing to spend time with my collection so when I send it out I can say, "I put my all into this and got this sweet sweet rejection letter."

When I come back, I plan to make this site better in terms of organization and also analysis.

In the meantime, if there's any suggestions anyone wants me to do then leave a comment on a poem, I'll think about it.

Your loving statistic,
The Retail MFA

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Analysis of "Mild is the Parting Year" by Walter Savage Landor

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Mild is the Parting Year" by Walter Savage Landor
More Information about the Poet: Walter Savage Landor


Two quatrains with adjusted lines also with an abab rhyme scheme.  When I first look at poem, this goes through my mind before the content because style informs the content here -- and here there's a sense of something out of place, a sort of melancholy.

     Mild is the parting year, and sweet
          The color of the falling spray;
      Life passes on more rudely fleet,
            And balmless is its closing day.

Here's the thing with this stanza -- the semi-colon connects the sentence as a direct correlation of time.  When the parting year happens there's a very image based connection -- sweet, the color of falling spray which is comparable to life passing away.  The key is how to interpret balmless as the lack of smell.  The after smell of sweet.

     I wait its close, I court its gloom,
          But mourn that never must there fall
     Or on my breast or on my tomb
         The tear that would have soothed it all

This lack of scent or rather the descent in the mood bring in the speaker, and by the looks of it, the speaker is mourning the parting year (maybe a little too hard).  The admission of not mourning, in a sense, is admitting that there is a tinge of mourning in the speaker.  

The usage of "or" in the second half of the stanza separates two distinct ideas of "breast" and "tomb" -- flesh and after-flesh.  Why the separation to the extreme?  Note how the "tear that would have soothed it all" flesh and death is ambiguous, but this could most likely be a love that has left along with the year.  Yes, love would appease the gloom in the flesh and the tomb.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Analysis of "Catch & Release" by William D. Waltz

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Catch & Release" by William D. Waltz
More Information about the Poet: William D. Waltz



Addressing the subject from a distance.  I think this is what I think of when I read an epistle.  Letters are meant to communicate but there's no sense of urgency.  Yes, there might be a sense of urgency within the context, but the epistle itself awaits for a response, so, at least for a while, everything is one-sided.

     Dear Reluctant Sportsman,
     maybe you'll release one
     into the watery teeth of the wilds
     a tiny capillary
     of our great circulatory system

The address to the "reluctant sportsman" is further defined by how the sportsman is reluctant, "you'll release one."  "One" is an ambiguous term in the poem which can be assumed to be a fish or something else.  In either case, the usage of "one" opens up the poem to a higher metaphor of the "tiny capillary / of our great circulatory system."  There's a sense of the grandiose here with the first stanza -- some personal to something more.

     Dear Familiar Face
     in the Passenger Seat,
     I saw you undressing
     that comely cornfield.
     I agree.  Maybe
     we're more alike than
     our combustible engines
     suggest, and if we are,
     you hope that next truckstop
     has a wedge of rhubarb
     pie to die for, too.

So why am I quoting entire stanzas?  Every stanza seems episodic with no connection; however, it is the voice that continues to grow and observer.  For example in this stanza note how the capitulations occur with the subject "Familar Face" and "Passenger Seat" and further down how surreal the actions that the speaker observes, "undressing / that comely cornfield."  yes, I feel these lines are supposed to be comedic, but also note how this surreal opens up the persona speaker "I agree" and how the speaker expands the poem in order for the thought to come through of being alike and "you hope the next truckstop / has a wedge of rhubarb" innocuous enough, "pie to die for, too."  The shift of the cliche which brings the play of the technique into question but doesn't damper it.

     Dear Cell Phone Radiation,
     we arrive almost invisibly
     on the threshold of distant
     relatives like a secret cold front,
     but our departure demands
     much horn honking and
     happy hands waving
     all he way
     to the end
     of the on-ramp.
     Our relief,
     an algorithm
     of how lonely
     company makes us.

The beginning has a sense of deep metaphor and seriousness with it based on the lines, "We arrive almost invisibly / on the threshold of distant / relatives"  which has a bit of the grandiose and the divine instilled, but this sentiment is compared to the (cynical) humor of, our departure demands / much horn honking and / happy hands waving"  I'm not sure how deeply the cynicism cuts into the seriousness, I feel that is what the poem is struggling with -- wanting to be either or but not committing (the last stanza secures this though).  At the end of this stanza there's a allusion to "an algorithm" -- the set rules that is the overarching style of the poem -- the epistle which is distance to the loneliness.

     Dear Rainbow Trout,
     you're a pretty fish
     and I wish we lived
     near the shivering brook
     and the sunken tree.
     Then maybe
     we'd finally learn
     how to leave
     without regret.

Here the reference to the Rainbow trout does go along with the title of catch and release, but the question is who is being caught and what is release.  What's being caught is the overthought of wanting one thing or the other.  Yes, there's that life in the shivering brook and the sunken tree, something physically calm.  But the disconnect happens with the admission of "how to leave / without regret"

The release has more meaning to it because it's not the speaker who is released or staying -- there's a fear of committing to one or the other based on emotion "regret."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Analysis of "Early in the Morning" by Li-Young Lee

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Early in the Morning" by Li-Young Lee
More Information about the Poet: Li-Young Lee



I do have to write that I think Rose is one of the best collections I've read.  there are so many poems that are so memorable: "Rose" and "The Gift" naming just two.  This poem, "Early in the Morning" has all the trademarks of that collection: striking images, hidden (or overt) sensuality, and how a connection is made.

In the first stanza there's a very specific image of, "While the long grain is softening / in the water, gurgling / over a low stove flame,"  Note the passive verb of "is softening" and how this verb sets up the tempo of the poem.  Soften and passive.  But also note the slow flame as though to build up something.  And within the same stanza, this image appears, "my mother glides an ivory comb / through her hair, heavy / and black as calligrapher's ink."  Although it seems like these are opposing images, I feel these images add on top of each other -- how the hard rice turns soft is like how the hair is turned from a heavy image to something soft and curled up.  This may be a stretch, but I feel there's some sort of connection there.

The narrative of the mother continues:

     She sits at the foot of the bed.
     My father watches, listens for
     the music of comb
     against hair.

The interesting part of this stanza is how domestic the lines stay even with the metaphor.  The music of the comb isn't overly whimsical or unbelievable.  The music of combing is a personal sound.  Something that the father has heard for years, and something the mother has played for an equal amount of time.  This is how a connection is formed -- just subtle things like this that turn out to be extraordinary.

The next stanza states how she does her hair:

     My mother combs,
     pulls her hair back
     tight, rolls it
     around two fingers, pins it
     in a bun to the back of her head.

The language here is innocuous and the metaphors and similes used earlier is not here.  This is the literal description is then contrasted with this sort of hyperbolic line, "For a half a hundred years she has done this" The description of time is pretty purply, but with reason -- there's a sense of mystery behind "half a hundred years" since there's the question about the other half -- age, time, etc.  The focus is how time is perceived rather than how time elapses.

"My father likes to see it like this. / He says it is kempt."  This is a very firm and directly ordered line, but like the mystery quality, this line holds a secret.


     But I know
     it is because of the way
     my mother's hair falls
     when he pulls the pins out.
     Easily, like the curtains
     when they untie them in the evening.

There's a sense of sensuality with the last stanza with the mother's hair falling and the father pulling out the pin.  A certain type of intimacy that, yes, has a power notion to it, but also a sense of trust of winding and unwinding.  Then the last image of the curtains untying -- it's something I can imagine.  The curtains hiding the couple.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Analysis of "Body" by James Hoch

Original Poem Reprinted Online Here: "Body" by James Hoch
More Information about the Poet: James Hoch


Written in couplets, the poem is a connection between a son and a father.  Now, this doesn't spoil the poem because the techniques in the poem change and mold the ideas within the poem, mainly, what a father wants to leave a son, but the first six lines of the poem is lead up:

     I hang it here, in the entry,
    so it will be known simply

     unmistakably as fact, the way
     when you were born

     you were merely a body
     umbilic, barely breathing.

So why so long until the context of the poem.  The first two lines of the poem are ambiguous and the "it" could only refer to the body.  So the focus is on the speaker's body and it appears that the poem is a metaphor -- hanging up the body for something.  The introduction of "you" in the second stanza indicates the son being born -- the umbilical cord cementing the scene, but the alliteration afterward of "barely breathing" making the situation ambiguous -- is the son dead the umbilical cord a reminder?  or Is it a reminder to the father about the son as a child -- the umbilical cord being a trigger to the memory.  In any case, from the unknown to the actual rubber bands to the opposite direction.

"I could hold you against / my chest and sleep, not hear"  Again this could be an argument of the dead son since there is a lack of sound, but the enjambed line goes further with, "the sky falling metallic / nor dead friends all night" -- note how the images return to death (even stated straight out).  The falling metallic sky could represent something artificial or inevitable; meanwhile, the mention of the dead friends further reinforce the idea that the son is dead, but again the line continues, "pacing quietly in my room / Son, when you cut it down / you'll have to lift it kindly."  When the speaker addresses the son, there is a phantom sense because the actions are so specific -- cutting something down and lifting kindly.

But, for me, the morbid sense is that time will cut down the umbilical cord, and not the son growing up.  The symbol of the umbilical cords drops as though he returns the memory back to the son -- as though waiting for a future.

"so as not to compromise / the evidence.  And if they ask / about the pills or empties,"  So the speaker here talking further to the son as though the father is the one leaving the son behind.  If they ask.  Who are they?  I think they represent the dead friends that the son is with now.  And the pills and empties are a bit concerning if it refers to suicide -- but for now, they are just empty:

     say I tried to make my body
     pure again -- a fireman swaying

     from a cord smartly tied
     back on itself, nothing more.

The metaphor combines the idea of a cord (umbilical and the speaker's) and tries to force the metaphor into something more -- something pure.  However, the last line at the end is a sense of letting go -- suicidal, memory, whatever.

Nothing more.  Because it's already out there.