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.

No comments:

Post a Comment