Friday, January 31, 2014

Analysis of "At Melville's Tomb" by Hart Crane

Original poem reprinted online here:  "At Melville's Tomb" by Hart Crane
Originally read: July 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hart Crane


This poem is an homage to Herman Melville, in the sense that the references to nautical terms relate to the speaker's experience with Melville.  Written in quatrains, the poem also has an unpinned rhyme scheme -- making the poem more vers libre than any other form.  Also each stanza is end-stopped giving each stanza an individual importance.

In the first stanza, the focus is on the the perspective.  There's two going at play here, the speaker and how the speaker interpreted the "he" to observe the same see.    So overall is what the speaker sees and interprets. "He" sees, "Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge / The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath / An embassy".  When the line ends with "An embassy" there's a judgment call -- yes, these are drowned men, but there's something communal about them rather than separate.  And even though they are communal, "Their numbers as he watched, Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.  Note the shift back onto land; however, the question is what is obscured?  The visual or the representation.

In the second stanza, the idea of obscure comes through the description:

     And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
     The calyx of death's bounty gives back
     A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
     The portent wound in corridors of shells.

Note that the first and fourth line rhyme in this stanza which indicates a separate sort of connection.  There's the sound of bells, or actually the lack of which the speaker and "he" refocuses on the scene of the dead -- "A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph / The portent wound in corridors of shells"  Note how fluid the speaker transitions to the scene back to language so that when the phrase, "The portent wound" comes in, the metaphor is applicable to the writing of a scene and the visual of what is seen.

The next stanza I had the most trouble with because I thought, "the circuit calm" was an entirely new concept based on the individuality of the stanzas.  1st stanza: the connection between speakers 2nd: the actual scene and the writing of the scene.  However, "the circuit calm is the combination of the first and second stanza with the idea of "one vast coil" coinciding with the "calyx".  And with the paradox line, "Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled, / Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars" the act of writing about "the embassy" changes the meaning of the dead, "and silent answers crept across the stars"  note the hyperbole here is not about the message is how the message is portrayed -- distant or even non-existent like, "wrecks passed without sound of bells"


I feel the last stanza makes a good envoy to the poem in which each line goes back to how the speaker wanted to approach the subjects of "he", language, and the sea.  "Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive"  Here are the tools to communicate, just like language -- contrive, the creation of art or a scene, but in the context of the instruments, there's also a sense of discovery.  "No farther tides ... High in the azure steeps / Monoday shall not wake the mariner"  So the monoday refers to the poem and the process -- the farther tides (distance) the high in the azure steps (honoring) will not bring the mariner back -- both Melville and the subjects Melville wrote about.  "This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps."  Note the adj/noun combination ties in the homage concept -- fabulous in concept but shadow in reality.



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Analysis of "My Grandmother's Love Letters" by Hart Crane

Original poem reprinted online here:  "My Grandmother's Love Letters" by Hart Crane
Originally read: July 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hart Crane


I've been re-reading this poem and my notes, and, the poem, and, yes, there's the theme of memory and forgetting; however, the poem is not as cut and dry with the theme.  Memory is described in a multitude of ways -- as a concept and in the personal.

In the first stanza there's the rhetoric of memory being compared to stars, "There are no stars tonight / But those of memory."  In this way, there's a physical representation of memory.  "Yet how much room for memory there is / In the loose girdle of soft rain."  And with a physical representation there's a way to quantify memory.

The second stanza continues with space, "There is even room enough /For the letters of my mother's mother, / Elizabeth."  Pat me noted the specific name giving a personal effect to the space.  Also the specific image of letters reinforces a physical manifestation of memory.  I find the line "mother's mother" curious, but foreshadows the relationship the speaker has with "mother's mother."

The speaker then further describes the letters, "that have been pressed so long / Into a corner of the roof" the act of hiding within the home, "that they are brown and soft, / And liable to melt as snow."  Hiding leads to a decay -- a loss of memory.

And so the space and person tie in together in regards to aging:

     Over the greatness of such space
     Steps must be gentle
     It is all hung by an invisible white hair
     It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air

There's a sense of the grandiose of memory and a person, however, here the speaker moves carefully and note the comparison, "It is all hung by an invisible white hair/ It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air" Careful, but aged.  Here is the focus of movement.

Then the speaker goes to the self.  The rhetorical questions deal more with sound, "'Are your fingers long enough to play / Old Keys that are but echoes:"  The transition to memory that, "Is the silence strong enough / To carry back the music to the source"  And here the line could end with an implied source, but the confirmation, "And back to you again /As though to her?'" Is not so much to name the source, rather to think of the source -- who is it -- the person able to read the letters or the one who wrote it.

     Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
     Through much of what she would not understand;
     And so I stumble.  And the rain continues on the roof
     With such a sound of gently pity laughter.

Here, I'm not sure if the grandmother is real or more of a phantom of memory based on how the poem continues to play with memory and person.  And with the semi-colon, the grandma ties into how the rain on the roof -- destroying the letters.  Both are being destroyed and the sense of cynicism adds a sense of frustration, "sound of gently pity laughter."  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Analysis of "Photo, Brownie Troop, St. Louis, 1949" by Margaret Kaufman

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Photo, Brownie Troop, St. Louis, 1949" by Margaret Kaufman
Originally read: July 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Margaret Kaufman

The poem is told as a monologue from the point of view of instructing and "calming" the object.  From what I can gather, past me noted the voice was from, "troop leader?"  But that's a guess, in either way, the focus of this poem is judgement.

The first line focuses on the comparative subject of "Karen Prasse" and the majority of the poem focuses on Karen's attributes, "an example of precocity"  --  and in this sense the poem avoids the other subject for the first half of the poem.  This leads to the assumption that the other half, the "you" is the opposite of Karen.

So when there's description like this, "a girl who knew that the sky (blue crayon) / was above the earth (green crayon" the definition of precocity is exemplified through these little snippets.  Here the focus is on logic and color within the lines -- genius, right?  Meanwhile, "as you had drawn it, come right down / to the green on which your three bears stood."  A reference to Goldilocks, where the focus is on the bears.  And yes, the lines could be more metaphorical because of the attention to specific detail, however, I find the lines more humorous and rather off the cuff.  Why?  Because of the perspective.  The perspective cannot see beyond the visual, or rather cannot interpret past decorum.

"You can tell from her outfit that she is a Brownie. / You can tell from her socks she knows how to line things up." Not something that the other comparative subject can be seen as.

However, the poem turns towards the other, the "you" with these lines:

     [...] Do not mistake
     her for an art critic: when she told you
     the first day of first grade that your drawing
     was "wrong," you stood your ground and told her
     to look out the window.

So here there is a change of tone from the speaker. Note that the speaker was always gentle, but not semi-empathetic.  Here is the first, I guess, critique of "Karen Prasse" as an art critic.  But the poem actually slingshots the tone to the other direction.

This line mimics the first few lines, "Miss Voss told your mom / you were going to be a good example of something,"  But the attribute is never described rather the appearance, "although you cannot tell from the way your socks sag, / nor from your posture, far from Brownie-crisp."  A bit harsh -- the critiques are more apparent now.

And I think this line drew me in, "This is not about you for a change, but about / mis-perception, of which Karen was an early example."  And, this, based on what's being said in the poem, is true.  The majority of the poem focuses on Karen.  However, what is implied -- the "nots" focuses on the "you" entirely.  Here past me wrote, "Bias."  and that's not exactly the right word.  Rather, the idea of mis-perception is entirely based upon a visual bias.

Which makes this poem, weirdly, meta-poetic or meta-art here.  The lines change the context of the poem to talking about art in general.  Karen Prasse representing a certain type of artist, and the "you" representing another artist.  The speaker is the critic.

And so, when I look at this poem in this perspective, the last three lines have a sense of power:

     Who knows?  She may have meant to be helpful,
     though that is not always a virtue,
     and gets in the way of some art.

Past me states that this is a, "epiphany ending from the judgmental perspective.  What is the bias?" And the judgment is not form the artists, but from the critic.  So when the speaker states this rhetoric, where sometimes being helpful with art is not always a virtue, it's more of a statement based on individuality of the artist.

Helpful, in this sense, is defined in the poem with the moment of Karen stating the "you" was "wrong."  Judgment.  So the partisan judgment spiral of critic and other artists are not helpful in "some" art.  The some caught my attention as well.  "Some" implies that there are others that benefit.  And, what's not being stated, like the you without a name, becomes more of a forefront afterthought issue.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Analysis of "Break, break, break" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Break, break, break" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Originally read: July 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Alfred Lord Tennyson



This is another poem that has a lot of analyses behind it.  I didn't know.  Anyway, here we go again. The poem is comprised of four quatrains with rhymes happening on the second and fourth line.  There's the play of connection and no connection here.  A sense of distance.  Furthermore, each stanza is end-stopped. Each one works as individual episodes that tie in together.

The first stanza starts of with repeating the verb, "Break, break, break"  what needs to break "O sea!" where "On thy cold gray stones"  However, there's an inversion of linguistics here, it's not subject verb object, rather verb object subject.  I was wondering why construct this way.  The verb, break, is imperative in the first line, "how" is not as important, but "what" is the end of the line which is another focus.  Linguistically, the construction foreshadows the arc of the poem -- verb (actions), object (how the speaker deals with the subject) and subject (judgement or envoy).

The second half of the first stanza, "And I would that my tongue could utter / The thoughts that arise in me."  plays  on the idea of sound. Past me wrote, "comparative metaphor: sound of waves crashing, utterance of sound."  The open versus the personal.

Past me wrote this about the second stanza, "Sonic imagery: shout, sing (all referring to water, the sea).  Also note that the visual image of the fisherman's boy and his sister, the sailor and the boat is a domestic ideal of a sea town -- there's a sense of harmony here.

Yet the third stanza transitions to something more metaphorical than the concrete scene in stanza two:

     And the stately ships go on
     To their haven under the hill;
     But O for the touch of a vanished hand
     And the sound of a voice that is still!

Yes, the first two lines is concrete, but the last two lines, connected, by the semi-colon, is a strong metaphor which refers to the speaker.   I feel the poem hinges on understanding what the "vanished hand" represents.  I don't know what vanished hand represents.

Well, not all the allusions and references to it.  Theoretically, the vanished hand could refer to fate, something divine but guides is the same as. "sound of a voice that is still" something that does not equivocate.     I was also thinking a vanished hand could represent memory as the poem has a dream like precision to it.

Regardless, the fourth stanza has a strong turn as well.  But the opening lines refer back to the beginning with, "Break, break, break / At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!"  The difference here is the "how" -- "at the foot of thy crags" -- more based on location.  The conjunction here of "but" turns the poem.  "But the tender grace of a day that is dead / Will never come back to me."  This is where I read the vanished hand as memory, and it seems like a nostalgic poem.

However, if the vanished hand is more of fate, then there could be a narrative about a tsunami taking away a village, and this is more of a eulogy than nostalgia.

So I'm not too sure, I feel both are effective.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Analysis of "Refrain" by Maggie Glover

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Refrain" by Maggie Glover
Originally read: July 18, 2013
More information about the Poet: Maggie Glover


Update:  Got word from the poet, Maggie Glover, "the two '-' before 'groom' and 'rise' were mistakenly added by & aren't in the original" Yeah, it does change the way I read the poem. Mostly didn't think -room would be groom. I'll get back to this someday, but for now. Here's the analysis as I read it.

----

Past me wrote something similar for different lines, "conflicting metaphors," and "conflicting statement."  And I think this poem is comprised of conflicts.  Not a conflict that's developed, rather small, sometimes non-sequitur linguistics that change the focus of the line.

For example, "I am learning that life is a pond. No. / I am learning that life is not a pond, but has a pond's boundaries,"  Here the change in language is simple -- a pond versus not a pond.  But the focus has changed to "pond's boundaries".  In this manner the poem can focus on two things -- 1) What is contradictory to the speaker 2) what is the real focus instead of initial focus because the next few lines focuses on on the idea of nothing -- the not, "a long & empty warren, / I am quiet: I have nothing to say."

And even thought this line might indicate a change, "The bride / takes her cues from her groom."  The following lines focuses on visual absence and the absence of another, "The -room lies awake / in her absence/  I feel what I understand:" Note how the "-room" invites the reader to infer what type of room it is.  It could be a bedroom, but it could be something like, "her old room."  By giving the reader to infer on absence there's an investment initiated to the reader.

The poem continues with what appears like a Christmas scene, "the white Santa holding a present, the wreath of lights / the red poinsettias on the fireplace," however, these lines feels like an offshoot of "-room" line in which the absence is explored through "what I understand:"  It's easier to understand images, but not emotions, "It is Christmas / and we are all in mourning."  Comparatively, look how vague the emotion is versus the scene.  Pretty bare.

"Our mothers miss us, eve / the ones who don't"  This conflicting statement, just like the lines in the beginning, opens up what the real focus to the speaker (and not just a saying).

     [...] Let's talk about your mother.
     Let's talk about my comatose cousin, the one who drowned
     in the pool.  Let's talk about your uncle, who took you in the garage.
     Let's talk about how we became adults.  Let's talk
     about your dead brother, the one with the beautiful hair.
     Let's talk about my parents. Let's not.  Let's talk
     about my problems (how often we don't talk).

There's the implication that the speaker is wanting to talk to another.  However, as the poem develops, it feels like the speaker is trying to talk to the contradictory self to sort out the self.  Look at the list of people the speaker should talk about: mother, cousin, uncle, brother, parents with only "we became adults" more on the conceptual side.  And then note how all these specific people with their specific one detail is dropped.

Past me wrote, "Anaphora of 'let's talk' power struggle for conversation 'race to the bottom' attack? pity?"  the speed and the lack of exploration creates this tone of building up, as though each line starting with "let's talk" is a barb to the self -- something painful to not explore but to realize exists which is punctuated, once again, by what is not, "Let's not".  Furthermore, the parenthetical support the idea of recognition of the lack of "discussion."

If the poem ended here, I feel the line would be too on point -- too sentimental.  So the last three lines serve as an aside -- a little bit off or a whole lot, "The group of people -rise at once, as if tied together /with string.  They are heading to karaoke in japantown -- / silver bells, like knots of tin, lighting their way to the door."  Here the "group of people" feel like they refer to the speaker's group and by mentioning them, the focus is not how the speaker avoids them, but how they move away from the speaker.

The "-rise" doesn't have the same effect on me as the "-room" line where there's a sense of open interpretation.  The "-rise" seems personal like the speaker would know what to put there, but for me as a reader, "arise" is the only thing that fits for me.

There's no emotion in the movement away, just a visual and a purpose -- going to sing karaoke, and they look bright, sort of obnoxious with, "like a knots of tin"  They exist to as leftovers or causes of contradictions either entering or exiting "to the door."


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Analysis of "The Day Lady Died" by Frank O'Hara

Original poem reprinted online here:  "The Day Lady Died" by Frank O'Hara
Originally read: July 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Frank O'Hara



I didn't know this poem has many analyses about it.  I think the common thread among the analyses are the poem's references.  Yes, the lady in this poem represents "Billie Holiday."  And yes, there's numerous  mentions of pop-culture, place, and time.  I think the references have been covered over by Shmoop and Modern American Poets websites.

So what can I bring to the table?  I'll go stanza by stanza.

In the first stanza the speaker knows specifically the time, date, and place, "It is 12:20 in New York a Friday / three days after Bastille day, yes / it is 1959"  Why so specific?  It's funny the construction is specific as though the speaker wants to remember history, but also note that the poem is written in present tense.  The present tense serves a sense of immediacy.  The speaker is here, right here, and the reader is along for wherever he is going.  This brings a sense of closeness.

Also these line's in the first stanza, [...] I will get off the 4:19 the Easthampton / at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner / and I don't know the people who will feed me."  The impromptu.  Also note the speaker note caring about being an imposition, rather, the speaker "knows" that he'll meet up with people and he'll probably be fed.  It's as though he knows his routine down to the minute.

I consider the second stanza to be up to up to the alignment shift.  So with the second stanza it's a lot more vague on the speaker's movements.  He doesn't name a place where he ate, but he does specify what he ate, and more importantly what he busy, the newest issues of "New World Writing."  Note that the speaker buys a copy but the qualifier of ugly is more ambiguous.  Maybe the look of the magazine.  Maybe the entire thought of poets in Ghana.  The word "ugly" tells more than the buying in that sense -- a glance judgement.

The shifted aligned line of "I go on to the bank" shifts the action of the poem to a forward momentum.  Furthermore, the shift is to a specific person, "Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)"  Past me wrote, "reinforcing unknown friends."  And I could see why past me wrote that -- all the mentions of people are cursory in this poem without any emotional tie.  The focus is the movement of the speaker.

Even still the speaker is considerate, "I get a little Verlaine for Patsy"  but the mind continuously shifts, "I do think of Hesoid, trans. Richmond Lattimore." However, the thoughts don't go further than just dropping names.  These thoughts are purely stream of consciousness just like the speaker's movements.

The speaker keeps on moving though, and at this point there hasn't been this moment until this stanza.  The speaker is alone.  The speaker is alone with his thoughts and his journey.  This is the reason why he could move so freely in place and thought.  At the Park Lane liquor star (once again specific) he sees "New York Post with her face on it"  Past me pointed out this is the first mention of the "her" in the poem.  Also note how ambiguous the description is.  "Her".

Yet, this unspecific pronoun triggers a specific memory:

     and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
     leaning on the john door in the 5 Spot
     while she whispered a song along the keyboard
     to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing.

The beginning of this stanza is in the present but the first line confirms that the speaker is "thinking" that the following scene is in the mind.    The actions that happen after the first line are past -- and this is the momentum stops, and the memory plays.  "She whispered a song along the keyboard"  Note, no song, no tempo of voice, just a statement.  And then the final line going back to the speaker "I stopped breathing."

Now why?  Why be so generic about a memory, but specific on the present?  There's the idea of focus and that the speaker is specific in motion, but unspecific in memory.  I see it this way.  In being unspecifc, the speaker doesn't come off sentimental.  That the speaker returns power to the "her".  It's 50/50 instead of how the speaker intrudes into a situation.    Now with the lack of sentimentality, the impact is there.  The speaker doesn't lament, rather expresses action "I stopped breathing" where the reader has to infer what that means, but understands how devastating the action is.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Analysis of "Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Snail" by William Kelley Woolfitt

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Snail" by William Kelley Woolfitt
Originally read: July 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Kelley Woolfitt



Here's the picture of the "Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Snail"


WIkipedia Article about the Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Snail


Why do I give this much information about the animal.  Because the animal indicates place -- West Virginia, the Appalachia trial.And, with regards to this poem, place and setting seem to be the central idea.

Written in five sestets, the poem starts out with sayings describing the setting, "Dog days, shut sky, zero rain, / wood-sorrel and lamb's tongue / smell like hot pennies"  Here the speaker sets up a hot day, time frame unknown, but the language, the continuous usage of idioms, appeal to the visual and the olfactory.  The simile here is interesting because how tangential the other half is, but is a reader can still relate.

"copper scorch.  Tiny blazes almost / kindle in the leaf litter, almost / gives off sputters of smoke.  Past me noted "almost" as "goes with speaker's imagination of wanting something to happen."  I think past me's thoughts are a little too far ahead, but  I do agree the stanza hinges on the word "almost" based off repetition and action.  Almost kindles, almost give off sputters of smoke.  There's a sense of urgency there.

Yet, the speaker focuses, in the second stanza, on the snail.  The setting is set up, "Three-tooth struggles, sheds / his faith in the surety of rain -- / for he has senses warnings."  Here the key word that stands out is "faith" because the word reasons why the three tooth "sheds"  and precipitates the reasons for "warnings."

"in his four horns (which serve / as his noses, also his eyes), / has felt in his soft parts"  Here's a pretty interesting technique at play.  Note how the beginning stanza is mostly visual and olfactory -- here the speaker describes the snail with these sense, but also writes to appeal to these senses.  Does that mean the reader and the snail have similar qualities.  Perhaps.  But there's a sense of empathy being placed here.

     pangs of dryness,
     the pestilence that mortifies flesh.
     He slips into the upheaved rock
     basilica of gritstone, its aperture
     scarcely bigger than his own
     He passes through the vestry

This stanza changes the context of the poem completely.  From a "nature" driven poem to a poem that is focused on the word" faith."  Basillica, roman church building, and vestry, changing room for a church, are the words that stand out, but also note the change in diction, "pestilence that mortifies flesh."  It is at this point where the speaker tries to add more meaning to the subject rather than just observing the subject.

     descends to the fissure-nave,
     its font of moisture a sign to him
     something like the unbidden tears
     of our own carved saints,

Cognizance.  Not only to the surroundings, but what the snail searches for.  This is pretty high metaphor at this point, but the simile buffers an overly divine reading.  A little absurd (in the existential Waiting for Godot sense), yes.  Moisture is the equivalent of unbidden tears of our own carved saints.  The speaker is placing importance of a snails action.  The appeal for me at this point is how far will the speaker go?

     [...] rivulet
     of life flowing from stone.  Didn't
     the poet say to drink whatever juices

     we can squeeze from the earth?

The assumption for me is that the divine and the poet are one.  The observer, interpreter, and poet come out and take over the lines here.  The snail now becomes more of a symbol as the speaker comes to the forefront with the rhetoric.  The rhetorical question though seems to chastise something.  Perhaps the snail, perhaps the surrounding, perhaps the poet.  But the question, without concrete context, could apply to any subject, symbol or item.

"Thee tooth secretes his shell, shapes / its apex and spire-whorls, patched the temple that houses him," so the connection here is that the shell is like a temple.  And in disregarding it the "consequence" is "mixes his mortar from calcium / in the dark soil that he eats."  Is the recreations of the shell but this time with "dark soil"  A difference of approach?  Or the same material that grows back?  Past me wrote, "The fusion of images to hunker down -- there is no change in weather, self, journey, escape."

I think differently now.  I do sense a strong shift and power behind the last three stanzas toward religion, but the couplet feels undirected, but it appeals to me to interpret the poem in either/or rather than a fusion of both.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Analysis of "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen
Originally read: July 16, 2013
More information about the Poet: Wilfred Owen



Wikipedia Analysis
Shmoop Analysis

Both links have really strong analysis for this poem, and I do recommend reading their analysis for an understanding of this poem.  So what can I bring to this poem that hasn't been already written?  Coming upon this poem for the first time on July 16 of last year, I knew this poem was famous, I knew a little bit about Wilfred Owen.  But I never really analyzed the poem

I thought it'd be fun to look at this poem with an analytic eye before reading what others had to write.  I looked up a couple things with this poem.  The latin, of course.  "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is from Horace and translates to "How sweet, how honorable" and plays on the idea of "serving one's country is both sweet and honorable."  I also looked at the bottom latin a s well.  The form is in the French Ballade From -- ten syllables per line, alternating rhyme scheme -- in (more or less) octaves.  With an envoi (summation or thoughts by the speaker about the poem) with the last four lines.

But no, don't you see the lines don't look that way...Well, separation and inclusion changes the context of stanzas and lines.  Yet the way they operate, or should, should be taken into consideration.

Well the first eight lines are pretty cohesive:

     Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
     Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
     Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
     And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Note the abab rhyme scheme and how important it is in the poem.  There's the immediacy of comparison here.  What's being compared.  Remember, the simile is comparing something "like old beggars" and "like hags."  Soldiers.  The speaker takes away the glory through the simile but keeps the actions relevant to what these soldiers did.

     Men marched asleep.  Many had lost heir boots
     But limped on, blood-shod.  All went lame; all blind;
     Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
     Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.


Here the speaker confirms his subject matter is soldiers based on the experiences and actions.  But note the speaker addresses the immediate drawbacks of such actions through the list created by semi-colons -- it's as though these are the end byproducts of "Marching asleep."  Lame; blind; drunk; deaf.  Note the shells dropping behind has a sense of litotes since the focus in this stanza is human deficiency.

     GAS!  Gas!  Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
     Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
     But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
     And floundering like a man in fire or lime. --

Mustard gas.  World War One.  This is the time context of the poem.  Note that the litotes of the previous line is quickly dissipated through the urgency of the warning, "GAS!"  Note that the speaker puts himself as the observer but also the person in charge.  In the Shmoop analysis, I saw they mentioned "ecstasy" was more of a oxymoron device in the poem to punctuate how it is not "ecstasy".  But I looked at the word "ecstasy" with this definition in mind, "the An emotional or religious frenzy or trancelike state, originally one involving an experience of mystic self-transcendence."  Not that high and mighty, but an "emotional or religious frenzy" does apply here.  Is there an implication of transcendence -- no.  But does the emotional frenzy fit here.  Sure.

     Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
     As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

     In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
     He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

Not a complete stanza, right?  Well, note the separation as different interpretations of the same scene.  The first part shifts toward a simile, "as under a green sea, I saw him drowning" however, the second part returns the simile to real action -- although the actions are qualified by being a "dream."  Note this serves as a volta in the poem where the speaker starts to play with the surreal with the real with a haunting effect.

     If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
     Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
     And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
     His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;

Note that the descriptions become more lucid, more dependent on metaphor especially the line, "like a devil's sick of sin."  Note, also, the earlier line about "ecstasy" with a context of religion as well.  The soldier, who, realistically is dying in the back of a wagon, is described as one going through "ecstasy"  the previous lines foreshadowed this in a sense.  Also note the first mention of "you" which is addressing the reader -- the desperate attempt to connect the experience -- dreamlike or not -- to the reader to understand.

     If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
     Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
     Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
     Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues.

Here's a more realistic description that plays on the senses, then goes into the metaphor.  Hearing, "froth-corrupted lungs" is vivid.  The simile as "Obscene as cancer" starts to shift away from the real and into the metaphor, "bitter as the cud"  so when the last line appears, "incurable sores on innocent tongues." There's multiple meanings of "innocent" going on here.  Innocent as in not yet harmed until this point.  And innocent as in naive, and unable to say anything.  The usage of "you" continues here as well to, once again, draw the reader in to the experience.

     My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
     To children ardent for some desperate glory,
     The old Lie:  Dulce et decorum est
     Pro patria mori.

Here the speaker addresses the you as "My friend" -- as though the speaker illustrated his point that there's no glory in war.  Yes, this is the envoy, the part of the poem in which the speaker sums up and discusses his poem.  But note also that the saying "Dulce Et Decorum Est" is stated in full here to serve as a quantifier.

How sweet, how honorable to die for one's country.  This saying focuses on the act -- to serve one's country.  However, the speaker is focusing on the personal -- actually seeing the death of someone dying for ones country -- and they don't mesh with the speaker.  Is this an anti-war or pro-war poem?  Whatever people can get from it.  The subject is more towards the personal in the beginning, and ends with the conceptual.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Analysis of "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Eating Poetry" by Mark Strand
Originally read: July 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Mark Strand


A couple of notes past me wrote on this poem.  "End stopped lines.  Child like Appeal." "Punctuated Insanity."  Past me had fun with this poem.  It is a fun poem to for bibliophiles.  Anyway, the poem works like a surreal narrative in which the tercets, and the punctuation add a sense of structured madness.

The poem starts out on the focus on ink and how it is on the corner of the speakers mouth because, "I have been eating poetry."  Yes, the metaphorical meaning is strong here. Perhaps eating poetry means excessively reading.   But the metaphor doesn't matter to the speaker. The actions of the speaker are centered around the surreal.

Meanwhile the actions of the librarian, "The librarian does not believe what she sees. / Her eyes are sad / and she walks with her hands in her dress" focus more on response and consternation.  Funnily enough, I relate more to the I speaker, but in the poem the reader is just like the librarian.

"The poems are gone.  / The light is dim. / The dogs are on the basement staring and coming up."  There's an introduction of the third element of "dogs."  There is special attention to the dogs through description, "Their eyeballs roll, / their blond legs burn like brush. / The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep."  This is the first instance of simile in the poem and the dogs from the basement have a "blond" look but are also compared to a brush.  There's a lot to allude to here: Cerberus, art, unknown, etc.  However, this is not the focus.  The focus then turns to the librarian who stammers -- is so in moment of the unknown that she could only express herself physically.

And in turn the speaker expresses himself physically, "She does not understand. / When I get on my knees and like her hand, / she screams."  Note there's a star of a rhyme sequence.  In the previous stanza there was internal rhyme of "feet and weep" and now "understand" and "hand" to add a sense of humor to the poem.  But note how tender the speaker is to the librarian.  The description of "poor librarian" indicated this sense, but to lick someone -- that's better than biting someone.  And now the surreal is taking over until the end.

"I am a new man. / I snarl at her and bark. / I romp with joy in the bookish dark."  The speaker confirms that he's a "man" with attributes like the dogs from the basement.  And yes, he does snarl and bark, but not in a violent, and more importantly, dominating sort of way.  The speaker quantifies his actions with "joy in the bookish dark."  And yes, dark could be interpreted as the shadow, the unknown, the personal  knowledge no one else dares venture.  Or it could me going back to a book.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Analysis of "Ibex Have Evolved for Life at the Top" by Lisa Olstein

Original poem reprinted online here: Analysis of "Ibex Have Evolved for Life at the Top" by Lisa Olstein
Originally read: July 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lisa Olstein


So this is an Ibex:



Past me wrote an encompassing idea of the poem: "Transition to choices to simulate Darwinism."  Well, I don't know what past me meant.  But I do know that there's a scientific feel to the poem because of the cumulative deconstruction of definitions in the majority of the stanzas.

And even though the poem is a single stanza, there are three parts to this poem: 1) cumulative deconstruction of definition 2) the illusion of choice through the usage of "if", and 3) Choices laid out in the form of rhetorical questions.

Part 1: Cumulative Deconstruction of Definition

The title serves more as a tone setter.  The poem starts out with an interesting statement in which there's a more likely chance that the speaker will look at how the Ibex has evolved for life at the top.

So when the poem starts out with a cumulative definition with the opening lines of, "When we say specimen / we mean you" the tone is expected, but the speaker defining "you" and "specimen" at the same time isn't.

And with each definition, it's not the simple "word signifies this" rather the speaker implies certain aspects for each definition

     [...] By you
     we mean whatever
     collection of night sweats
     and shopping lists accumulates
     in the bed by dawn.

Theoretically, the "you" could be about the speaker since the actions are so specific, but general at the same time -- night sweats, and shopping lists.  This doesn't create meaning since there's no contexts -- it seems more like an appeal to make connections.

     [...] When
     we say dark we mean pitch,
     moonless, starless,
     don't even open your eyes.

This is a tricky definition.  The "dark" part refers back to  actions done in spite of the list above which is common. The dark presents more of a foreign sense.  With that sense the negatives pile on, "moonless, starless"  There's no nature there rather the focus is on "pitch" which has multiple meanings and definitions, but the automatic assumption is the phrase "pitch dark" (extremely dark) for me.  The other meanings like throwing a ball, or regarding voice doesn't fit that much, but it could work.

"When we say he has your eyes / we mean we see nothing / of you there."  The the connection here is with eyes and by the language -- it seems that there's a parent/child relationship going on here in the most visceral sense.  But after rereading this, it's not.  Rather the above "evolve" fits here.  Theoretically, the parent shouldn't have the child's eyes "we mean we see nothing of you there" -- individual based on evolution.  But that tone still lingers which brings us to part 2.

Part 2: The Illusion of Choice through the Usage of "if"

There's only two if questions here:

     [...] If you want
     someone to come for you,
     you'll have to cry harder than that.
     If you want to be prepared,
     practice: blizzard, fire, famine.

So I wrote this is the illusion of choice because of the "if."  "If" implies that the you wants something.  And with these limited choices, again, the "you" looks more like a reference to the self or a concept rather than the audience.

Regardless, the first if puts the "you" in the position of defeat.  To have someone come for you, you have to cry harder.  Note, not louder.  Rather the cue is more visual and sonic.   So there's multiple layers of defeat here.  And also note, the someone is not a savior; rather someone who will come -- the poem seems more like an observation in the scientific sense with a tone that plays on cruel on one hand, to knowledgeable with the other.

The list of disasters the "you" has to prepare for adds back to the quality of evolution.  How can one "practice" blizzard, fire, famine?  These tactics are never explored.  This is the illusion of choice.  The choices are presented -- cry harder, practice to prepare -- but these are dire situations.  There is no practice, there is no someone.

Part 3: Choices Laid out in the Form of Rhetorical Questions.

It's not a losing gambit if the "you" loses everything.  The "or" conjunction feels cynical here with, "Your shoes or your coat? / Your cat or your dog?"  since the subject matter is pretty surface compared to the dire situations stated above.

But the last line, "Sister, daughter, mother, wife?" shows the loss here.  To evolve, in a sense, these definitions become static when the other definitions are dynamic -- changing, becomes more.  The "woman" definition here seems like the loss comes not from evolution, but the inability to change and go forth with them.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Analysis of "A Ballad of Dreamland" by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Ballad of Dreamland" by Algernon Charles Swinburne
Originally read: July 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Algernon Charles Swinburne

Ballad.

So what appears to be octaves are actually two quatrains with a "abab" rhyme scheme pushed together.  And even though the meter may be a bit loose, the rhyme scheme alternates between soft sounds (-es, -red) to harsh sounds (-art).  Also what the octave form brings is immediate juxtaposition that ties in together rather than separate individual stanzas.

In the first stanza the focus is with the speaker, "I hid my heart in a nest of roses" and past me wrote "flowery metaphor" as more of a pun.  But this is the direction the poem goes in the beginning -- the comparison to the self  to metaphor on a slight hyperbolic scale.    The image is nice, but lines like, "Under the roses I hid my heart" invite a symbolic interpretation that leads to the same -- love/heart/hurt/hide.

The second half of the first stanza starts off with a rhetorical question, "Why would it sleep not? Why should it start"  with "it" referring to the heart.  And the lines continue to question the lack of movement of the heart as though not completely in it.  The last line repeats through all three stanzas and the envoi, "Only the song of a secret bird" -- so the silent heart is the song of a secret (unknown, possibly hidden) bird.  High metaphor here.  Why?  Dreamland, where the experiences are more important, and to convey such experiences the high metaphor works here.

The first part of the second stanza has the repetition of "Lie still" which applies to the following: leaves, wind, sun, heart.  Here, an outside force threatens to uncover the still heart -- maybe enliven it, maybe even expose it.  If not the actions of the wind, the sound, "And the wind is unquieter yet than thou art" exposes a comparison -- that the heart is quieter than the wind.    And at this point the speaker sounds exasperated due to the consequence to his own initiative of hiding his heart.

Therefore, with the second half of the second stanza, the speaker confronts his "heart" with this rhetorical question, "Does a thought in thee still as a thorn's wound smart? / Does the fang still fret thee hope deferred? / What bids the lips of thy sleep depart?"  here the questions go from high metaphor to somewhat grounded metaphor -- the decline plus with the drive with questioning shows that the speaker is looking for an answer.  And then the refrain comes with, "On.y the song of the secret bird."  As through to respond back with a image in which the speaker has to unpack.

However the last stanza focuses more on setting.  There's no rhetorical questions, rather description of "green land" that hasn't been traveled with fruit "never was sold in the merchant's mart."  The funny thing here is that the speaker knows this area is unknown like dreamland.    In doing so he's personalizing the unknown.  And with the last half of the poem focusing on "swallows of dreams"  the birds that reoccur.  The movement is there but, "no hound's note wakens the wildwood hart"  So silence the birds, and the heart, and sometimes the wind.  The actions here leave no sonic impression, but more of a emotional one.

The envoy here (I had to look it up to see the possibilities)   sums up the poem.

     In the world of dreams I have chosen my part,
     To sleep for a season and hear no word
     Of true love's truth or of light love's art
     Only the song of a secret bird

Even though the speaker questions the silence of the scene and himself, he insists that he "chose" this part.  Therefore, the questions refer to why.  And the envoy, which does sum up the dilemma, confirms his choice.  A silent heart is better than no heart -- I guess.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Analysis of "Death" by Kwame Dawes

Original poem reprinted online here: "Death" by Kwame Dawes
Originally read: July 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Kwame Dawes



Here's Kwame Dawes reading "Death".  And there is a difference of how I read the poem in my mind versus how Kwame Dawes read the poem.  For me, the violence and the viscera stood out for me, but when I heard Kwame Dawes read the poem -- it's not the violence, it's what's learned through progression.

The poem itself uses narrative technique, but also reinforces a sequence with first couple of lines, "First your dog dies and you pray / for the Holy Spirit to raise the inept / lump in the sack,"  For me, the language of "dog" and "inept" has more of a cynical view already set in the beginning.  But when I heard the poem, the line seems more innocuous, and the focus is more towards:

     [...] but Jesus's name
     is no magic charm; sunsets and the
     flies are gathering.  That is how faith
     dies.

What's the difference?  Accumulation versus pointed.  In my initial reading, the accumulation brings a sense of anger in the frenzy sense -- everything and everything sucks.  But the pointed plays in the poem here.

So, the "you" (note not the speaker), leaves the the death of the dog to create death.  Yes the middle part is uncomfortable to read for me, but it serves an important purpose.  Note the juxtaposition of tenderness and violence, "You let it lick / milk and spit from your hand before / you squeeze its neck,".  The focus here is observation.  Devoid of emotional attachment, what power does death have?   The observation continues until, "the stench / of the hog pens hides the canker / of death."

So all this observation, well let's say empirical evidence comes up to this conclusion, "Now you know the power / of death" Note, again, the focus is on you -- as in the other, as in the reader as well.  The poem plays the multiplicity of attachment and emotion -- or rather the lack of.  The actions are pointed, "that you have it, / that you can take life in a second / and wake the same the next day."  Yeah, the violence teeters the line of serial killer, and it's what turned me off to the poem.  But at the same token, what keeps me going is the line, "This is why you can't fear death."  The lines feels cumulative -- but this is from two pointed experiences which colors the perspective of the "you."

The list of death continues with the observation of a dead man and then the formation of a syllogism, "You know that / a dead dog is a dead cat is a dead / man"  And what the syllogism does (regardless of logic) is detach the "you" from death.

Which is the mindset to take on another:

     Now you look a white man
     in the face, talk to him about
     cotton prices and the cost of land,
     laugh your wide opened laugh
     in his face

Note the allusion to southern politics with "cotton prices" and the idea of ownership of physical material with, "cost of land,"  but what's curious here is the "laugh you wide opened life"  -- to what?  The idea of ownership?  The idea of economics? The idea of understanding?  This part is pointed, but also open to interpretation since the scene comes out of nowhere, but fits with because the setting  is consistent.

"and you will dies as easily / as live.  This is how a man seizes what he wants"  There's the mindset of nothing to lose here pushed to the extreme.  But also this is the point where the poem goes heady, "how a man / turns the world over in dreams," which is butted up against the simple, "eats a solid mean and waits / for death to come like nothing."

The similes slows down the list, but the simile is focused towards "death to come" which has "positive" connotations, "like the open sky, like light/ at early morning."  To the last simile which is focused on an image of another man -- red pinstriped trousers, black top hat, yellow scarf.

"and a kerchief dipped in eau / de cologne to cut through / the stench coming from his mouth."  For me, the automatic response is "death = stench" since the word "stench" was used a while back in the poem.  But now I wonder.  The sense of smell is pretty well used in this poem.  I think this applies more than the conceptual like "death" more of "the personal definition of death" appears to "you" in the form of the actual, and is now to the metaphor.  Yes.  Probably not.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Analysis of "I Speak Not" by George Byron

Original poem reprinted online here: "I Speak Not" by George Byron
Originally read: July 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: George Byron


So this is more of the typical Romantic love poem here.  I don't know why I chose it then if it's typical.  Reading this poem again nothing really stands out for me as stemming away from the typical love poem style of: yearn, bargain, win.  But the poem is interesting none the less.

Written in rhymed couplets, the speaker goes through some hyperbolic thoughts, "I speak not, I trace not, I breathe not thy name. / There is grief in the sound, there is guilt in the fame." The mention of the name triggers this sense of grief.

"But the tear that now burns on my cheek may impart / The deep thoughts that dwell in that silence of heart."  Deep thoughts?  Well sequestered not philosophical turmoil.    But at this point the speaker is searching for something within the "silence of the heart" -- sometimes saying nothing brings unnecessary hope.

Or rather a hanging and misinterpreting actions, "Too brief for our passion, too long for our peace, / Were those hours - can their joy or their bitterness cease?"  Past me wrote (either/or) and, usually, the second phrase after the or is the more important one for the reader since the second part is most like going to offshoot or is the last thought in the mind before the next line.  However, "joy" sticks out to me more now.  This is more telling of the speaker, grasping at the joy or bitterness.  Not a mixture of the two, more of a sequence from one to the other.

"We repent, we abjure, we will break from our chain / We will part, we will fly to - unite again"  Eulagaic hyperbole?  Or hyperbolic metaphor describing constrictions of space.  Either way, the repetition of the "We" adds to the sense of a couple.

"Oh! thine be the gladness, and mine be the guilt! / Forgive me, adored one! forsake if thou will."  Theoretically here, the speaker is giving the power to the other as the other is the "gladness" his happiness, and he be the "guilt."  And weirdly, the admittance that the other has this control and power  of the speaker leads to the debasing of the speaker.

"And stern to the haughty, but humble to thee, / This soul in its bitterest blackness shall be;"  So I know I skipped ahead, but I think this is what interested me about this poem.  How fare will the speaker push himself down to the dirt?  Mind, check. Body, of course. Soul, right here,  The savior.  I wonder sometimes if that's the appeal -- that the other would save the someone else.  From what, apparently themselves.  But, note, that we as a reader don't know what makes the speaker have the "bitterest blackest soul".  Yes, it's safe to assume the turmoil of love, but how about the acknowledgement of compulsive obsession?  Or perhaps the speaker did "something" to cause the other and the speaker to separate.

And I think the other couplet that interests me is the end, "And the heartless may wonder at all I resign - / Thy lips shall reply, not to them, but to mine."  Ah, the control then wrests back onto the speaker.  All the other has to do is 1) save the speaker from himself 2) love him 3) ???? 4) profit.

This is a monologue for a reason.  The appeal of the poem is the distance, the saving prospect, the love of the speaker.  Romance? Everyone has his or her version of what he or she wants.  Persuasive?  Maybe.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Analysis of "If I Were a Dog" by Richard Shelton

Original poem reprinted online here: Analysis of "If I Were a Dog" by Richard Shelton
Originally read: July 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: Richard Shelton


The poem works as a narrative with the speaker imagining his life as a dog.  However, the poem is not as simple as this.  The poem where it hiccups is what interests me, but the hiccups aren't at the end; rather, they are spliced into the narrative and a very forthcoming as though to state, "this is different, but what does it matter in a poem like this."

"Poem like this" well a persona poem is a tricky thing -- especially from the point of view of a dog.  There's inherent humor there.  And the first stanza focusing on:

     peeing a little here and there
     wherever I felt the urge
     having a good time what the hell
     saving some because it's a long road

well, peeing.  Marking territory.  The first hiccup happens in stanza two with the lines, "but since I'm not a dog / I walk straight down the road / trying to get home before dark" and the juxtaposition of persona and the person continues the humor here.  Although scrutiny could be applied towards the person, I think the humor and the narrative keeps the momentum going in this poem.

Which, by stanza three,  goes back to the persona of the dog and the "seriousness" of the poem applies to, "if I were a dog and I had a master / who bet me I would run away"  the poem is not about the person but the persona, and how the persona's experience could be applied to human experience.  Yes, being beat is bad, but, "until I found a master who loved me / I could tell by his smell and I / would lick his face so he knew" is cute, but awkward.  The lines diffuse the "seriousness" of the situation and the focus here is on affection.

And the shift is on to a woman owner, "I would protect her we could go / everywhere together even down this / dark road"  And here the reference to the dark road -- the road that the person tries to get home before is implied here, but more importantly for me the lack of punctuation really develops well here.  The lack of punctuation brings a certain speed and want from the persona.  But also the tone matches a sense of excitement like, "sometimes in the afternoon we could / got to the park and she would throw / a stick I would bring it back to her"  These aren't separate actions -- these are the same according to the speaker.

So how to slow down -- well italics works

     each time I put the stick at her feet
     I would say this is my heart
     and she would say I will make it fly
     but you must bring it back to me
     I would always bring it back to her
     and to no other if I were a dog

The lines really slow down with the italics which represent dialogue.  And, yes, what is read is romantic -- edging on sentimental.  And so the last line, "and to no other if I were a dog" comes back to the notion that this poem is from a persona stand point.  Now, the person stand point -- does this mean the person is the opposite.  Not necessarily.  I'ts implied with the reoccurring image of the dark, and the inference is possibly there.  But the focus, to me, for this poem is the actions of the dog, the lack of punctuation, and want for love.
   

Friday, January 17, 2014

Analysis of "Lessons of the War" by Henry Reed

Original poem reprinted online here: "Lessons of the War" by Henry Reed
Originally read: July 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Henry Reed


"Reed's most famous poem is 'Lessons of the War,' a witty parody of British army basic training during World War II, which suffered from a lack of equipment at that time."

So the poem makes sense to me a little bit more now.  There's a whole lot of technique going on in here...an overuse of it -- epigraph in Latin, a regards in the beginning, a part one without a part two.  And that's not even getting into the poem.  From the language, yes, there's a sense of a dry parody as well.  

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Past me didn't do this, but I think the translation to the latin is "Until recently I have fought duels and led a soldiering life, not without glory" or "For ladies's love I late was fit, / And good success my warfare blest," which is a quote from one of Horace's odes, "Ode 26 Book III".  The reference serves more ironically -- the key is "glory,"  and the question is what is glorified.

Also the part one signifies, theoretically, a part two should be there.  But there isn't a part two.  Instead the part one stands out.  There are no other steps. "1. Naming of Parts."  

However, in the first stanza, steps are clearly laid out -- "today we have naming of parts.", "Yesterday / We had daily cleaning.", "And tomorrow morning / we shall have what to do after firing."  Why did I separate them out instead of a long quote?  These are separate things that a redundantly done.  These are actions in which the speaker is the most general about.  What about naming?  What about cleaning?  Now contrast the generalities her with this line, "Japonica / Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,".  Where is the mind specifically, at a scene, but action is based on a regime.

But the list of names -- well is pretty monotone as well, "This is the tower sling swivel. And this / is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see, / When you are given your slings."  The play on language here is dry which is kind of humorous.  Just plain language, "And this is the piling swivel, / Which in your case you have not got."  What do "I" have them.  Well nothing much -- naming and utility are two different things.  Like the nature image along with the routine, "The branches / Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures. / Which in our case we have not got"  The humor is that the speaker is trying to apply a wonderful aside to monotony -- monotony wins.

"This is the safety-catch, which is always released / With an easy flick of the thumb.  And please do not let me / See anyone using his finger."  The language here is slight but the difference between a "thumb" and a "finger" makes a laugh -- kind of like the absurdity in Catch-22.  I'll say nothing up to this point makes me take the poem with heavy gravity.  Seriousness, yes.  Big philosophical gravity, no. "You can do it quite easy / if you have any strength in your thumb."

"The blossoms / Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see / Any of them using their finger."  Ah, this has potential, but it's obfuscated a bit.  Note how the usage of the finger  has a delicate quality, but the fingers are of the blossoms'.  Interesting surreal image, a linger of the serious, but not by much.

"And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this / I s to open the breech, as you see."  More definitions, but more so in the procedural, "We can slide it / Rapidly backwards and forwards; we call this / Easing the spring."  From this the connection is the season of spring, "The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:  They call it easing the Spring."  Now the gravity comes in.  The verbs betray the separation of nature and procedure, "assault" and "fumble" are very visceral verbs, but yet go nowhere.  The strength is that they don't go anywhere -- they linger in the background and not in the forefront.

So when the line repeats, "They call it easing the Spring" the imagination ties in with procedure.  So many of the previous lines are repeated:
     
     [...] It is perfectly easy 
     if you have any strength in your thumb; like the bolt,
     And the breech, and the cocking piece, and the point of balance,
     Which in our case we have not got;

The key here is, "point of balance" which is a term that can be about the monotone, but also a straight out saying -- we don't have balance, but also this is the strength of the saying.  Not outright stating something with gravity keeps the humor in the poem, however, something like "point of balance" lingers, just like "assault" and "fumble."  This is where the reader has to infer a deeper meaning versus the speaker implying a deeper meaning.

"and the almond-blossom / Silent in all the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards, / For today we have naming of parts."  Past me wrote, "imagined life [versus] reality".  However, the push and pull isn't as strong.  Rather it's slight.  The speaker doesn't yearn to go back, rather uses nature as a separating device, and when that separation is breached, there's only procedure left.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Analysis of "After" by Robert Browning

Original poem reprinted online here: "After" by Robert Browning
Originally read: July 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Browning



Inescapable.  That's what I thought after I reread the poem.    The structure of the poem has a couplet in the beginning and the ending, but what's inescapable is the second stanza -- the emotion that the speaker holds -- even after.

"Take the cloak from his face, and at first / Let the corpse do its worst!"  The first line has a tone of anger behind it towards the unknown subject; however, note how the speaker addresses the corpse to "do its worst".  But what can a corpse do other than rot in the speaker's mind?  Well, I guess I gave it away.

It's not necessarily the person that the speaker holds onto, it's the conceptual.  Furthermore, the rhyme scheme that goes aabbcc..(and so forth) chokes the poem into a forced connection, "How he lies in his rights of a man!"

The speaker then addresses Death, "Death has done all death can. / And, absorbed in the new life he leads,"  what's curious about these lines are the punctuation.  The statement about death is direct and not expounded upon as though the speaker addresses Death as a situation modifier; but the conjunction of "and" signifies something added to the statement, and wants to keep each separate -- not so much like a semi-colon where there's a connection.  Maybe like separate actions of significance.

Anyway, the poem curt punctuation also adds a sense of constriction, but the we get to the core of the poem:

     Nor his wrong nor my vengeance; both strike
     on his senses alike,
     And are lost in the solemn and strange
     Surprise of the change.

Now this isn't addressed to the dead or even death -- this is all based on "my vengeance" and the semi-colon indicates that the rest of the lines -- emotions and rhetoric apply to vengeance -- "are lost."  The abruptness of the "loss."

What's lost is retribution but not vengeance -- not that feeling note the tone with, "Ha, what avails death to erase /His offence, my disgrace?"  That lost of retribution embitters the speaker -- that "ha" also serves as an exclamation in which the tone stagnates.  Bitter before, bitter after -- not epiphany, just loss equating to disappointment:

     I would we were boys as of old
     in the field, by the fold:
     His outrage, God's patience, man's scorn
     Were so easily borne!

Sarcasm.  It's hard to read -- note that the colon refers to the past -- to boyhood where such things like outrage, patience and score were still there.  It's the emotion the speaker is reliving in order to justify vengeance.

And with the last couplet, "I stand here now, he lies in his place: / Cover the face!"  Yes, the couplet refers to the now -- but note how the now is just as angry as the past.  Note also the command to "cover the face" does, indeed refer to the subject.  But could also refer the speaker as well (note the colon here defines rather than leads).  The speaker is keeping the vengeance -- that need regardless of how he looks.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Analysis of "I" by Michael Ryan

Original poem reprinted online here: "I" by Michael Ryan
Originally read: July 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Michael Ryan


"When did I learn the word 'I'? / What a mistake."  The opening lines of the poem is humorous.  But the humor is self referential and also language based.   This poem plays not only with the definition, but also visual representation.

"For some, / it may be a placeholder, / for me it's a contagion."    The speaker contextualizes the usage of "I" with "for some" and "for me".  The differences between inferences.  Note how the "for some" part focuses on a placeholder -- not so much of a definition of the self.  For the "for me" part the contagion line is more tricky.  Contagion -- harmful spreading, but not so much in this poem as far as length, but possibility.  The poem looks at many different aspects of "I" but not in a personal way.

"For some, it's a thine line, a bare wisp, / just enough to be somewhere / among the gorgeous troublesome you's."  Visually, a thin line -- an accurate depiction in which the "placeholder" mentality is in place in which separates the "you" from the "I."

Then for the speaker goes off on the possibilities of the "I":

     For me, it's a thorn, a spike, it's slimness
          a deceit, camouflaged like a stick insect;
          touch it and it becomes what it is:
     ravenous slit, vertical cut, little boy
          standing upright in his white
          communion suit and black secret.

The key with the rest of the poem isn't the definitions so much as the punctuation.  The speed of the commas in the first line is meant to camouflage the punctuation, but also adds various attributes to the "stick insect" quickly -- slim, check, spike, check, thorn, check, camouflaged, check -- deceit?  What?  Note that there's the difference between camouflaged and deceit -- as though to state that difference between intention and the visual.

Then comes the semi-colon, in which there's connective tissue with both this multi-descriptive stickbug metaphor and the next part -- "touch it and it becomes what it is:" This line is dependent on the "you" exploring, as well, what the "I" could possibly mean.

Now the colon is also tricky -- the colon signifies the definition of "it" in regards to "touching it" and "knowing what it is."  The metaphor of the stickbug should linger; however, the focus is the full commitment and exploration of the I -- the speaker's "I."

And what we see is something more religious, "little boy"  -- an I that's not something fully developed relying on something external for growth.  And then the play on color -- "white communion suit" and "black secret" -- the external is clean cut -- a communion suit which, in an oxymoronic matter, cannot be seen.  Why?  "I" relies on the black space -- what's there on the page, and so the black secret is more of what the reader searches for rather than what is there.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Analysis of "Paper" by Stephen Ackerman

Original poem reprinted online here: "Paper" by Stephen Ackerman
Originally read: July 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Stephen Ackerman


How paper is used in this poem.  But not actual paper, more like the various usages of paper in conversation, or in play but not in a direct way.  The construction of the poem doesn't allow any sort of individual definition or offshoot to be an emphasis since the poem is a single stanza.  What this opens up though is forced connections, as though to make sense of something well known on paper.  Like knowing the definition of "the."

First usage, "looks good on paper."  The idiom "we looked good on paper" is used, and expanded upon, "'To be young, beautiful, professional / stood them through the processional / but not many years beyond.'"  And through the explanation, "they papered over their differences".  Verb form of paper as in to gloss over.  The overall tone of the piece so far has been whimsical.  Note the rhyme brings an amusing quality to the poem as in play.

Which segues to the next usage, "Scissors cut paper, contracts are rescinded. / Heavy stock, with a water mark, / paper has a signature."  The references to paper are now coming faster with mentions of "papyrus" and "Paper on which he praised / her silken labor".  What the speed does is attempt to merge all the images before the reader can overly think about them.  The tie in with relationships, games, legalities, and history tie in together.  The funny thing is that the definition merges, but not the image.  paper, is still paper, meaning is added up.

Then the slow down with the quote:

     "Origami of your body
     when you folded
     first east, then west,
     and made for me
     the lotus of forgetfulness."

There's the reference here of east (Oragami) and west (Lotus-eaters [Odysseus]) with this quote.  What this serves is an addition to universality to the poem which is played one with "Each day you must decide / whether words are worthy / of the paper"  a greeting card saying subverted through alliteration.  There no change of tone specifically; rather a compiling of good and bad -- east and west (whatever is "bad" in that duo).

"Paper on which the suicide wrote: / 'I had a good life, don't blame yourself.'" has the strongest emotional impact for me due to the language being so simple rather then the reverent language used above this quote.  A part of me wishes the poem ended here since the impact is strong here without being overly dramatic (the language before buffers this).

Yet, I can see whey the continuation of the poem happens.  Paper for signatures.  Paper for the Constitution.  Paper as possibilities.  And the poem explores these possibilities without a focus on an individual preference.  So when the poem ends, "now is bound forever / to this minor poem, / to 'paper'".  The poem ends with it going back internally -- there's no choice since the poem itself "feels" like it's done exploring when going internally.  What's left is what is exposed.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Analysis of "Prague" by Khadijah Queen

Original poem reprinted online here: "Prague" by Khadijah Queen
Originally read: July 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Khadijah Queen


I'm still figuring out how the first line works.  Sounds weird but, syntactically, the line, "Yes as thievery," can cut different ways.

     *If the title Prague is the focus, then the affirmative of yes compares Prague to thievery -- which has       a more scenic focus.
     *If the simile compares the word "yes" to "thievery" then there's a focus on more of the saying, more
      and more of the speaker.

Does either or both meanings matter since in the same line the speaker negates the phrase, "except if saved for / a fantasy" This is also what I'm debating as well.  At the end of the poem, there's a strong message which I could see relating to one or the other, but if both, like one is analogous to the other -- then the meaning becomes muddled.

So from the first line, like I stated, there's a dismissal of the "Yes as thievery" line, and the shift goes to the speaker, "I in a backless / dress encounter" and to the other, "You on a typical balcony / overlooking Vitava".  When I read these lines with a cursory application of thievery to the images of the scene and the adjective "typical" -- the scene plays out more like a dream.  Or perhaps something ripped out of a romance/espionage flick, "gripping the lattice work, / metal, a barrier to leaping / into an esoteric night."  It's the language.   Also note the line-break at "leaping" signals a difference in implication -- something below the scene.

"[night] fixed and ornate / enough, like my penchant for the infinite / within the singular,"  heavy rhetoric here not the comparison to night to an "infinite within the singular" paradox.  Possibilities, is the first word that come to mind -- but not any old possibility, rather possibilities in regards to the speaker within this "fantasy."

"encounter you / as a tributary, serpentine, the heat of your fingers / on my spine."  The speaker and the other has a gradual physical  relationship, but note the adjectives and nouns to describe the "you" -- tributary, serpentine, heat -- language going in different directions and images.  Tributary more of an accomplice, serpentine have a weird visual negative connotation, and heat, a very tactile word that could go either way.  I find the speaker static in the possibilities, but the other dynamic in representation.

"my head turning / as you bend to catch the yes / I'd held latent"  here's when the discussion of "yes" becomes a turning point for me.  "Yes" could refer to the speaker and the poem is more of a fantasy with the last lines being more metaphorical based on the experience.

However, if the "yes" here circles back to the place, to Prague as thievery, the last lines, "a mine, you trigger with / your tongue, neither of us / mean to stop exploding" becomes more dire.  The transference of the "relationship" to a city in a non-stop cycle adds a sense a destructive desire on the city.  Note that the speaker and the you aren't necessarily named, and the title is "Prague" which could refer historically to a place.

Or maybe the place where the speaker had something "light" as a tryst.  Either interpretation is strong, but both, let's say, the tryst is comparable to the bombing of a city -- doesn't work for me since the comparison would trivialize both (of mine, mind you) interpretations.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Analysis of "Exile" by Hart Crane

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Exile" by Hart Crane
Originally read: July 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hart Crane





Quatrains.  ABAB rhyme scheme.  I don't know when this poem was written in Hart Crane's career.  I want to assume early, and this is because the style is so forward and easily read here which caught me off guard.  I'm used to Hart Crane poems like "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen" and  "The Bridge" which are heavily allusive pieces not only through myth, and pop culture, but also within the multiple meanings of words as well.


But with this poem, there are big things that are hidden or rather in a state of exile -- the subject, the speaker -- but the language is very forthcoming.


"My hands have not touched pleasure since your hand, -- / No, -- nor my lips freed laughter since 'farewell.'"  There's not tricks in these lines, maybe the punctuation with the double dashes which, around "No" sets up sort of of cumulative effect of lament.  But a reader could infer the emotional lament just from the language already.


"And with the day, distance again expands / Voiceless between us, as an uncoiled shell."  Heavily image based.  "Voiceless" stands out the most because this works as a visual and sonic image of nothing and when the simile gives momentum to the nothing -- something hollow internally and "tough" externally.  Shell could refer to a "bullet" or a metaphorical "sea-shell" -- but both serve a similar function.


"Yet, love endures, through starving and alone. / A dove's wings clung about my heart each night".  Sentimental lines.  Yes, love is there.  Unfortunately, the speaker is "starving and alone" and love is nothing more than a desire.  The dove's wings line is cliche, but at the same token this is what the speaker is "feeling."


"With surging gentleness, and the blue stone / Set in the tryst-ring has but worn more bright."  The sentiment ends with something hopeful.  But what I see in this poem is the start of the "Hart Crane" style -- there's a bud of it with the shell allusion, but past me noted "tryst-ring" -- play on "trust" and "tryst" -- both referring to a lover's agreement.  A single word in the last line shows there could be something more through the language.


Maybe this is a later work...then this analysis would be moot.  Meh.