Friday, February 28, 2014

Analysis of "Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back" by Joe Wilkins

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Then I Packed You Up the Ridge Like a Brother on My Back" by Joe Wilkins
Originally read: August 12, 2013
More information about the Poet: Joe Wilkins


The poem is dependent on couplets.  Furthermore, the poem is dependent on how the reader interprets the couplets.  Even from the title, the line break to create the couplet separates the simile from the known, but also nature against the personal.  The poem goes back and forth between these topics until the end.

The first two couplets sets up the scene with the first couplet setting up a macro, "In the blue dark I followed the ridge / toward the pines." and then the micro, "In a bowl of sage and dry grass / soft as the throat hairs"  note with the description tries to be appeal on the visual and tactile scale, but since the simile bleeds on through to the next line with, "of something small," and the line has a tinge of something visceral, of something viewed from above.

"I lay down." resets the line by introducing the speaker; but, "The sun was a long time coming, / the earth bloodless at my belly," once again brings a sense of violence and visceral not only to the setting, but now onto the speaker.  And even though this couplet is a "nice" calm image, "the stars closing their bright mouths, / the dew a gift on your lips" the next couplet adds tension because of the calm, "You did not see me, or my rifle,"

"Prey" that's the first word I put on the line -- and the images and tone hints that the "I" is more of the hunter here -- or rather a voyeur in control of the "you."  "blue as the dark.  I saw you / step from the willows" the couple traces the steps and then the visceral climax happens in the next two couplets:

     give your nose the black water.
     And you were beautiful.  There is so much

     blood in a thing--
     yours welled up from the clean hole.

Note that I tied bloodless (the I) to the blood (the you).  Also note how the tone of the speaker in "And you were beautiful" comes off a bit cold in the vision of the brutal scene.  But here it's also important to note that the speaker is in control of scene.  And further control with, "I made in your heart and streamed / on the river stones"  The speaker takes a literal (or metaphorical) piece of the you and "cleanses" it.

"and some washed down into the river, / where it swirled a moment, / and became the breath of fish." Here is the question.  Is this a couplet and an extra line, or a tercet?  I feel this is a tercet in logic and theme, but a separation from the emotion.  Yes, the lines has a sense of a beauty surreal comparison -- from blood to the cleansing to a breath.

But note the image is such a focus here that the speaker is interpreting and predicting what the image should become.  The image of the you -- a clean hole in the heart with an undefined body.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Analysis of "Bartimeus Grown Old" by Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Bartimeus Grown Old" by Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall
Originally read: August 11, 2013
More information about the Poet: Marjorie Lowry Christie Pickthall


Here the poem is entirely dependent on understanding the allusion.  Bartimeus  refers to the blind man healed by Jesus.  And what this poem does is written in the voice of an older Bartimeus.  But also note the poem is also a dramatic monologue in which the speaker, Bartimeus, is giving a sort of confession.

The first line indicates identity, "Yea, I am he that dwell beside this tomb."  And from identity comes background, "I was a child.  God smote me from the sun. / A little while, I had forgot to run / Under the rain-sweet roof of almond bloom."  The initial line of age has an child like, but profound, outlook, "God smote me from the sun.  The line has symbolic implications of "God" but also "sun" (equal divine entities, unable to feel warmth, whatever you want to put).

"I had forgotten summer, and the flaw / Ruffling the gray sea and the yellow grain,"  These line lead to the tactile, and "the flaw" leads to the idea of experience.  Is experience valid if a person uses all senses?  How about none?  Or more importantly, what defines experience and how does remembering change in time?

"Now I am old and I forgot again, / But a man came and touched me, and I saw"  Here's an interesting line to end the octave.  The focus in previous lines were the tactile and these lines are more centered on the tactile -- remembering what is felt -- rather than the visual or even the man that healed him.

And even though the "man" dowered (endowed) Bartimeus with sight in the most flowery sense, the core and idea is this, "Now I am blind again, and by the way / Wait still to catch his footsteps in the dust."  Yes, Bartimeus is blind based on age, but one again he wants to be healed.  Note the difference between the outlook of a child (smote -- direct) to the old (wait -- dream).

And the turn with the couplet, "Surely he comes? --and he will hear my cry. / Though he were stricken and dim and old as I"  It's not the waiting part.  Well, that's sad but.  Look at how consistent the speaker is with parallel structure.  I noted the difference above with actions, but not with thought.

God smote him.  A Man healed him.
He waits for a man.  But doesn't wait for God.

Is this poem a riff on religion.  Probably.

But since this is a persona poem, I think the bigger question does the thoughts of the persona fit with the character or is the persona more like a puppet to speak the poet's intent.

Up to you to decide at that point.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Analysis of "How to Tell Your Mother There Will Be No Grandkids In Her Future" by Ira Sukrungruang

Original poem reprinted online here:   "How to Tell Your Mother There Will Be No Grandkids In Her Future" by Ira Sukrungruang
Originally read: August 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ira Sukrungruang



This poem has a very strong commanding tone with the majority of lines starting out with the verb "tell."  But who is the speaker commanding?  This poem humor comes from the speaker trying to urge and plan his way into telling his mom.

The first three lines come off as firm directions, "Don't enter conversations / about generations.  Use the art / of misdirection."  The humor here is the reference to a magician or a military tactician -- or both, really, when telling a mom that there will be no grandkids.  Furthermore, the speaker uses the line as a jumping off point on what other conversations could be implemented.

"Tell her the rain / is falling."  Here's a reference to the current situation, not the future.  "Tell her today / you saw a cardinal, / her favorite bird," once again the present situation mixed in past reference to please the mother, but, "and it was / feeding its young seeds."  Here the grammatical effect is pretty weird but interesting, yes, the mother is feeding seeds to the young, but another way of looking at the line is the absence of the object.  In this sense, the speaker is feeding "young seeds" to whom?

But this line of thought goes away with, "No.  Better not mention / the young,"  So the shift continues with a mention of a garden which implicitly talks about the young, "the tulips have multiplied, / their buds like hands in prayer."  And with each shift of the actual, the speaker becomes viewed in a different light.

     Better yet,
     tell her about the work
     crying in your brief case.
     Tell her you wish
     you had three lives:
     one for work, one for your dreams,
     and one for her.

So these are the last two sentences which has the verb "tell" (more or less) in the beginning of the sentence.  Here, the focus shifts from external "misdirection" to self misdirection.  Technically, there is no focus, so what is there to blame.  Work? Her Dreams? Inability to please her?  Here the speaker is stating being busy as the implicit reason for not having grandkids -- a third party to blame.

Then the poem turns to a dream like state where the idea of grandkids turns to the fantastical, "Siamese warriors / as she wants, swinging on a tree"  And again pay attention to the verbs, "they listen, those warriors."

So the last two lines, "They wait for her to emerge / from the jeweled temple" is a little riff on the mother who, is implied, to have the demands of grandkids.  But the true trick behind this poem is that the majority of the commands, dreams, and lines are constructs of the speaker.

It is telling your mother about not having grandkids, but it's also telling the self about not having kids -- which is not addressed in the poem, but implicitly glossed over then lamented.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Analysis of "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe

Original poem reprinted online here:   "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe
Originally read: Some Time Ago,
More information about the Poet: Edgar Allan Poe



On the very top right corner of my paper analysis, I write down the rhyme scheme and the form of the poem.  Even though Poe himself stated that the poem is in a ballad form, there are drops in rhyme schemes and meter.  But the poem isn't about the exact form -- rather, like the subject, the poem is an exercise in inexactness -- something is not right in this poem.

In the first sestet the rhyme scheme is almost exact and the line that isn't is the difference of "thought" which plays with the memory talked about.  There is a set up as the speaker and the girl "Annabel Lee" in which the speaker places the subject as someone "lived with no other thought / Than to love and be loved by me".  The construction here is a bit weird because the focus is on the subject and then the subject's purpose in relationship to the speaker.  But note how the speaker fills in want.  And how the speaker imagines "their" lives together.

"I was a child and she was a child. / In this kingdom by the sea."  Note that the specific age group and the place.  The next line filled with "love" being in accordance to how a child would want.  But then the poem turns to the divine with "With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven / Coveted her and me"  The divine isn't that far of a stretch as comparisons go, but the lines set up a divine intervention:

     My beautiful Annabel Lee;
     So that her highborn kinsman came
     And bore her away from me,
     To shut her up in a sepulchre
     In this kingdom by the sea

The key is "highborn kinsman"? Who are these people?  It's not who, but what they represent.  Here the speaker is specific with who takes away his love and the separation is through birthright -- literal or metaphorical.  Does this mean that the poem can be looked at a bourgeoisie vs proletariat piece? Sure.  Does this mean that this poem can be looked at the highborn kinsman as "the other?'  Okay.  I don't mean to be flippant, but this is probably the key line which opens up the poem for many interpretation.

And from this, the divine comes back in the form of smite, "The angels, not half so happy in heaven, / Went envying her and me -" and with this vengeful intent, "That the wind came out of the cloud by night, / Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee" note, these are the same "angels" (seraphs) that were happy with them.  What's not explained is the change or the why.  So what's the focus then?  The speaker's emotion towards Annabel Lee and death.

And death doesn't deter the speaker to proclaim his love which:

     And neither the angels in heaven above,
     Nor the demons down under the sea,
     Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
     Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

Note the placements make sense, yet the strong verb of "dissever" brings more of a visceral tone to the piece, but also note the focus on alliteration with that line as thought to reinforce the divine's inability to sever.

And the final lines has grim implication as well as romantic:

     And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
     Of my darling - my darling - my life and my bride,
     In the sepulchre there by the sea
     In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Again the strength of alliteration here as though to confirm the speaker's stance, but also note the shift of power from the beginning.  The speaker perceives the purpose of Annabel Lee was to love him and he to love her -- the speaker put that meaning there.  And in the end, the speaker is trying to find meaning without her there.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Analysis of "Experiment in Divination: Voice and Character" by Rebecca Wolff

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Experiment in Divination: Voice and Character" by Rebecca Wolff
Originally read: August 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Rebecca Wolff


Here's the thing with this poem.  My investment with this poem isn't necessarily to understand this poem, I think my focus is how the techniques relate against each other for example the first two lines, "There is a curiosity that knows / I know" has a sense of dual knowledge.

Meanwhile, "deathless ceiling of unknowing / I know" shows a singular knowledge.  And even though the poem has strong images and rhetoric at times, the poem is an "Experiment in Divination" where it's not about making sense, rather seeing how far one can push or withdraw.

So when the poem addresses the audience (querent) in archaic terms, I feel that the poem is asking the querent to search for basics rather than search too deeply for meaning or theme -- look at this as an experiment, "Who I ask is changing / all the time" current, "now changed" past.  Duality being played here.

"How else is one to know / How is one to know how to proceed."  Knowledge discussed in beginning is a conflict between group and singular knowledge; however, action with knowledge is hard to time.

     The course of action

     a non-reflective surface

     a playing card on a wooden picnic table
     a knot of knowing on node of playing

Don't look at the images, here the sound.  P - P - (k)N - (k)N - N - P.  The technique foreshadows the technique in the poem -- a sense of cyclical reasoning even if sporadic and note the slight shift of wording with the placement of "else" with the next two lines: "How is one to know / How else is one to know how to proceed" to create a slight difference in the cycle, but ultimately leads to the same conclusion.

"And there's forever / and that's a mighty long time"

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Analysis of "Self-Portrait In a Wire Jacket" by Monica Youn

Original poem reprinted online here: "Self-Portrait In a Wire Jacket" by Monica Youn
Originally read: August 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Monica Youn


The couplets read like two separate entities, yet the funny thing about this poem is that the two identities are within the same base, the same poem.  Couplets, usually, work like this, but this idea is amplified further here due to the (over)usage of prepositional phrases and line breaks to set up rhetorical statement that automatically disprove a notion.

For example, "To section off / is to intensify, / to deaden.," these lines has an implicit statement going a couple ways: the implication that to not section off is to not intensify, and the way the poem will be read, intense focus on what needs to be "dead."

"Some surfaces / cannot be salvaged"  I think the deadpan tone comes through with the bluntness of this statement, followed by, "Leave them" which adds a dramatic flair to the ambiguous surface, but the poem turns with this line as well -- the statement turns further, "to lose function / to persist only / as armature,"  Note the leave them goes directly with losing function, but the important part, I feel is to persist.

And then the simile of "as armature"  which I looked up on an online dictionary, but didn't see for myself.  So there's the idea of a mechanical shell that rotates in order to, "holding in place / those radiant / squares"   and here it's not what the radiant squares represent ("sensation" [an even more vague description]), it's the actual visual implications -- the break between what's there and what's there -- "this body a dichotomy"

A statement which is further defined (complicated) with the actual of, "of flesh and / blood."  As stated earlier, the line breaks create one piece of rhetoric which completely turns with the next line, but the following lines feel directly unrelated to the text:

     [...] Wait here

     in the trellised
     garden you

     are becoming

What makes these line different is not the visual, but the tone.  The command as though the speaker is wanting to show the "you" something rather than the prepositional phrases which show something.  The difference is want.  So when the speaker states to wait, the cutting line breaks aren't as harsh because the speaker wants the "you" to focus.

"Soon you'll know / that the structures / have themselves"  even if the lines stops here, the reader is trained to wait until he end at this point, "become superfluous" so there's both the having only the self and the judgement call of superfluous:

    but at that point

    you'll also know
    that ungridded

    you could no longer survive.

The structure of this independent clause doesn't rely on the line breaks like the previous lines.  Gone are the discrepancies in meaning.  In place is the main, core point to get across.  I'm not sure about this technique wise.  The unpacking was part of the fun with this piece, but I understand the reason for this.

The key word here is "ungridded" which references the structure of the poem.  Yes, poem has structure, but is not on a specific "grid" -- the set rhetoric is not set and vacillates either strengthening both meanings or weakening them due to interpretation.

Can a "you" survive this?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Analysis of "Reading Can Kill You" by Barbara Hamby

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Reading Can Kill You" by Barbara Hamby
Originally read: August 6, 2013
More information about the Poet: Barbara Hamby


This poem mixes allusions, references, inferences, relationships, and alignment all together to talk about -- well, what could have been and what's going on now.  Why such complications?  Even if the situation appears simple from a spectator view, to be actually in the moment what do a person goes back to?  For the speaker, trying to understand goes back to literature.

The majority of the poem is a narrative between two couples talking over dinner.  The first mention of literature is the third line, "The Master and Margarita" in which the speaker announces to have read, "in different translations."  But with the focus on multiple translations, the speaker is still aware that, "his wife and my husband are stewing,"  there's a connection there which blows up to, "as if bob and I had discovered we had a former lover / in common."

Why?  Why this connection?

And the connection spirals out of control, "she was Russian, / and instead of no, she said nyet, which sounds like a sexier yes."  Now this may be humor going on, but I think the jump is too precise which makes me focus on the speaker's mindset.

But from here the speaker goes into the language of Russian, "Gogol's sentences and Madelstam's despair,".  Note specifically here that the technique is well stated, but not how it's used in the work, rather I feel the surface overview of technique feels like a buffer from the current situation as though the speaker is further distancing from the distance being created.

And here and there are sprinkles of a relationship, "cuddling at night with his giant cat, / watching the dawn rise, reciting Pushkin and Akhamtova, / thrilling to Mayakovsky's rants, and in the white nights of summer."  How dreamy these lines.  These are imagined nights and mornings with actions referring back to an ideal day -- meanwhile, "I can see why husband is silent and sulky / so I return to our table, sip my Sancerre, talk about Paris, / because all four can agree we'd rather be list in that city."

Note how the speaker is always in control.  Always knowing the situation, or knowing the Russian authors, or knowing when to come back, but especially understanding the scene.  It's as if the speaker can be in two different worlds at once and save both with a simple whim?  But does the speaker?

The speaker goes towards a tangent towards the speaker's great-grandfather. "who worked in the mines of Kentucky"  and his love of reading which turns out dramatically deadly, "but he was reading / and the furnace exploded, killing him, which led my mother / to threaten that all my reading would destroy me, too,"  And here I wrote down, "parallel events" because the irony only works due to the speaker being a bit oblivious here.

Well not oblivious on the events, but more of the gravity of them.  Yes, the grandfather died due to "reading" but the speaker is killing something because of the knowledge of "reading" -- the disassociation of reality.  Yes, the husband sulks, but how bad is the sulking?  His sulking is worth noting, but not as much to the speaker -- always back to the speaker.

"Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, whose heroine, / Bathsheba Everdene, was so rich and beautiful and stupid / I could hardly be blamed from not wanting to be anyone but her."  These last lines are somewhat tragic in the sense of wanting to be a character more than a person.  But, I feel, the turn isn't strong enough.  I don't want something that changes the speaker's mind, but I think the strength of the end is the weak turn -- that there is an implication that things will continue to be the same.  Knowledge is key, but doesn't save a relationship.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Analysis of "Move to the City" by Nathaniel Bellows

Original poem reprinted online here: "Move to the City" by Nathaniel Bellows
Originally read: August 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Nathaniel Bellows



There are two important characters that the reader needs to follow.  The first is the speaker who has more of a commanding tone in the beginning with lines starting with strong verbs, but then goes on a narrative edge.  The second is the subject of whom the speaker addresses -- the subject is a little hazy at first and then becomes clearer and clearer as the poem progresses.

The title blends into the poem and all the actions are in present tense, "live life as a stranger. Disappear / into frequent invention," and here the speaker is giving commands -- not suggestions -- to actually do something.  Note the emphasis on verbs and how phrases wrap around them.

This next part, I feel, the key verb of "take" twists the poem a bit:

     [...] For a night, take the name
     of the person who'd say yes to that
     offer, that overture, the invitation to
     kiss that mouth.

Even thought the physical movement at the end has a more visual impact, the verb "take" here gives power to the subject.  Like I noted in the beginning, the power lies mostly in the verbs and the speaker gives the commands; meanwhile, these lines it's the subject that takes, not only control, but also acts, but under the watchful eye of the speaker who changes from command to advice with, "Assume / the name of whoever has the skill to slip from the warm sides of the sleeping stranger"  and here there's more a sense of familiarity.

A sense of familiarity, no matter how distant the subject has to be (like a one night stand), why? "This is a city where people / know the price of everything" a monetary knowledge, "and know some of the best things / still come free" another knowledge based comparison in which the subject has to learn from.  Yes, there's a one night stand, and, yes, the subject has to take direction.  For the sake of learning though.

The next lines reinforces the releasing of "knowing" -- "shed / all that shame" or "flaunt the / plumage you've never allowed yourself to leverage."  And after these lines, past me noted the following lines are "philosophical statement (core?" -- "Danger / will always be outweighed by education, / even if conjured by a lie."  I feel this statement plays with the idea of how experience is born.  Sure, a scam, a lie, some misheard words, them misplaced action causes just as much danger than the truth -- I'm cheating on you, you are not the father.  But note the verb "outweighed"  not a judgement call, rather note how "Danger" hangs heavy.

And note after this, "Remember:" is command, it's not knowledge, it's advice based on instinct, "don't invite anyone back" also another key idea, "take off the mask."

So at the very core of the poem of danger outweighing education -- the mask comes off and what hits more, danger or education?

     [..] In the end, it
     might mean nothing beyond further
     fortifying walls, crystallizing
     the questioned, tested autonomy,
     ratifying the fact that nothing will be
     as secret, as satisfying, as the work
     you do alone in your room

Why quote so much?  There's a lot of speed going on in these lined in one direction then in a very hard direction.  Note how the verbs are more subdued here and not as action based -- mean, crystallize, ratify -- these are very though or visual based verbs not based on movement.  These verbs are meant to quicken the thought, but slow down the physicality which in turn is compared to loneliness -- which is a better secret, and a better source of satisfaction and work.

Here's the key with Danger.  Even though danger effects many in different ways, the one who experiences it, goes back home, and embraces is, is more than "educated" -- there's a heavier memory.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Analysis of "Old Men Pitching Horseshoes" by X.J Kennedy

Original poem reprinted online here: "Old Men Pitching Horseshoes" by X.J Kennedy
Originally read: August  2013
More information about the Poet: X.J Kennedy


AABB rhyme scheme.  Why?  There seems to be a separation of the current and the past in the poem and each seem too separate to intertwine.  The rhyme scheme does add a sing song quality to the poem at times, but, I feel, the rhyme scheme adds a sense of "pleasant" nostalgia.

In the first stanza, the current is in a narrative voice.  "Back in a yard where ringers groove a ditch , These four in shirtsleeves congregate to pitch / Dirt-burnished iron."  The description is constructed tightly, the verbs "groove" "congregate" focus on visual action; meanwhile, the "shirtsleeves" and the "Dirt- burnished iron" brings visual based on objects.  The scene is vivid and described to be alive and in the present -- setting wise at least.

"With appraising eye, / One sizes up a peg, hoists and lets fly-- / A clang resounds as though a smith had struck / Fire from a forge."  From the general the focus goes to the individual.  Note the individual eyeing or letting things fly.  This action from the individual is then turned into a simile of "fire from a forge."  With this, there's foreshadowing in which construction and body come into play.

     [...] His first blow, out of luck,
     Rattles in circles.  Hitching up his face,
     Hew swings, and weight once more inhabits space,
     Tumbles as gently as a new-laid egg.

The "one" actions revolve around failing to "hit the peg" or rather the concept of retrying.  Every action is detailed to slow down the action -- as though the speaker is paying too much attention to the person, so when the speaker keeps going on with the description -- the attention to detail is fuddled but not lost.  Past me wrote this about "weight once more inhabits space," -- "telling line, out of place in the poem, but foreshadows something lost here."  And it's not really something lost from the subjects perspective, but rather something lost in the speaker's perspective -- and that's focus.

When the speaker turns to the simile describing something tumbling, there isn't a focus on what -- is it the  horseshoe, or the man, or the scene, or what?  The description falters here.

"Extended iron arms surround their peg / Like one come home to greet a long-lost brother.  Shouts from one outpost.  Mutters from the other."  The description seems descriptive here, but most of the weight of description here is on the simile.  Note how choppy the lines for the simile are as though to reinforce a sense of brevity.  This breaks the flow of the narrative, and with the opening line in the second stanza, "Now changes sides, each withered pitcher moves" here's the shift, the bb to the aa.

"As his considered dignity behooves / Down the worn path of earth where August flies" The visual has now gone internal.  The lost-brother simile above is a little bit over the top, but introduces the personal.  In here the personal is not explored so much as the internal.  Dignity.  What does this mean to a visual poem, or this game?  It's a routine for a game based on aim and calculation. Diginity is formed:
   
     Down the worn path of earth where August flies
     And sheaves of air in warm distortions rise,
     To stand ground, fling, kick dust with all the force
     Of shoes still hammered to a living horse.

These four lines are dependent on implication.  Note how time and the horseshoe have similar verbs "fly" as though to signify time passing.  Furthermore, the actions of flying "distort" a rise.

The focus on action belies the sedentary.  What I mean is that even a simple game with an end needs players to act, "to stand ground, fling, kick dust with all the force" perhaps fighting against something -- death, overaccuracy, or seriousness -- whatever metaphor would work with the horshoe hammering to a living horse.  I sort of violent image, but this goes back to the "fire from a forge" line.  Construction.  And what's constructed from the living, movement, comfort, flow.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Analysis of "Sonnet after Wyatt" by Clive James

Original poem reprinted online here: "Sonnet after Wyatt" by Clive James
Originally read: August 11, 2014
More information about the Poet: Clive James





I think the reference in this poem points towards Sir Thomas Wyatt.  How much does the speaker refers to the poet is unknown to me since I'm not familiar with Wyatt's work.  However, the poem, an Elizabethan sonnet, focuses more on eulogy or a least the sense of someone lost.

'The final naked stalking feet have fled. / My chamber, even when the summer sun / Streams in to light my books, and is dark instead:"  Here the athropomorphizing of the action gives a distinct personal memory.  The list of adjectives "final naked stalking" have a sense of vulnerability, but note how each adjectives adds a sense of character to the feet.  So when the image shifts to the room, the focus is more metaphorical -- the room is dark.

"Those shining walkers have all cut and run / Out of the shower, not wearing very much / Printing the air with pleasure for my eyes."  Note the colon before this sentence.  This description is more towards the dark in which phantoms or memories come to the forefront, "shining walkers" parade around "not wearing very much."  The memories are visible, "Printing the air with pleasure for my eyes," and, note, the "pleasure" stirs only through the language and the visual, but phantoms are still phantoms.

"As sweet to look at as they were to touch, / They stepped like firebrands in a friendly guise, / Brighter than day."  When a memory is built up so highly, the "sweet to touch" and the "pleasure" (both could be implying something a little more sexual -- the disappointment is builds up.  Phantoms are still phantoms -- even if they are "firebrands in a friendly guise."

"The voids they left behind / Ache at the point that most intensely felt / Their prettiness,"  Note the continuously switching of senses and adjectives or nouns that apply to other senses.  As mentioned earlier, "sweet to touch" and here "felt their prettiness."  With these combinations there's a sense of confirmation and then confusion.  Confirmation based on the "pleasure" and confusion based on trying to express such pleasure which has now escaped the speaker.

     where vision floods the mind
     With the same heat that first made the heart melt.
     So I, that now they flee but once they sought,
     Pine for the sight and perish at the thought.

And the concluding lines lead up to this conclusion.  The want coming from the speaker confirms that the scenes earlier on are just visions that "flood the mind."  But the poem continues to go tactile in which the memories create a heat and continues to melt the heart.

And then the duality of memory comes back -- wanting to remember or wanting to forget.  And in here, I feel the remember affects the speaker in a more positive way than negative.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Analysis of "Bright Stars" by Moira Egan

Original poem reprinted online here: "Bright Stars" by Moira Egan
Originally read: August 2, 2014
More information about the Poet: Moira Egan



This is a reference to Keat's famous poem "Bright Star."  The form is the same -- an Elizabethan Sonnet, but the perspective has more of a dual-sided edge than "Bright Star."

The offset line, "And yet, 0 Morning Star, look what you've done" guides the reader on how to see this poem -- note the spelling of zero by the actual number -- the focus, primarily is going to be the usage of sentence structure, and the poem is going to look forward to what is done.

"Of late I've be obsessing (tendencies? / you know, the Plathy and poetic ones?) The poem turns from the speaker to allusion.  Does obsessing = tendencies?  No, but in the context to these lines the focus is on the micro of tendencies -- what does one do when observing tendencies?  And what type of tendencies?  The speaker defines tendencies as two different aspects -- turn Plathy into an adjective to form an allusion.  Suicide? Most likely.  Poetic ones? A sense of hyper-editing.

"so you bust out this pre-dawn pageantry / including, though not limited to, two extremely gleaming planets"  I think the core to these lines is figuring out who the "you" refers to.  And I think the "you" refers to Keat's or rather the image of Keats in which the speaker conjures.  It is this character that brings out "pageantry"  and the filler lines of "including, though not limited to," seems like an assured grasp to figure out reasons.

"(Venus & Mars / just for tonight inveigled into truce?)"  It is not the image in the poem, it is the representation.  Two different "planets" are in a truce, but not exactly getting a long.  There's the indication that there was once a war.

"The moon a perfect curlicue of butter -- / a scene to lull even the most sleepless"  The trick with this line is how "lull even the most sleepless" is interpreted.  Yes, it could mean that the images and references are boring, but how about this?  What if lulling someone is just putting someone in a safe sense of security that, "to be wakened by the boom / of sunrise synaethesia, who luscious / colors, tisane, grapefute infuse the room."  The expectation of image, of something from nothing.

"so fully I forget the walls are white / and why I lay there worrying all night."  What does the speaker want in this poem?  Peace, perhaps.  But what does bringing in image, color, feeling, emotion, wonder bring to the speaker, worry.  Worrying for what?  Expecting something to come, or expecting something to go away.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Analysis of "Necrological" by John Crowe Ransom

Original poem reprinted online here: "Necrological" by John Crowe Ransom
Originally read: August 2, 2014
More information about the Poet: John Crowe Ransom


The logic of the dead.  That's if I understand how compound words work.  I probably don't.  Anyway, the poem is written in quatrains with an abab rhyme scheme which would indicate an equivocalness of something.

"The friar had said his pasternosters duly / And scourged his limbs, and afterwords would have slept; " The subject in focus is the friar who goes by a regular routine of prayer and "scourging" himself.  But note the semi-colon here foreshadowing a connection between routine and, "But with much riddling his head became unruly, /He arose, from the quiet monastery he crept."  Yes, there seems to be a logical narrative sequence going on here.  We have a character (friar) we have a setting "monastery" but I contend that the character and scene are the same, well in the end.

The setting continues to be further described, "Dawn lightened the place where the battle had been won. / The people were dead -- it is easy he thought to die --"  The monastery overlooking an old battlefield becomes present again in the mind of the friar.  This allows the friar to imagine, and then interpret the past, "These dead remained, but the living were all gone, / Gone with the wailing trumps of victory."  Note the play with the line break in which there could be an implication of the reinforcement of the dead with the living gone.  But then there's the switch in the next line where the living are "gone with the wailing triumphs of victory."

And then this stanza reveals the historical event:
 
     The dead men wore no rainment against the air,
     Bartholomew's men had spoiled them where they fell
     In defeat the heroes' bodies where whitely bare,
     The field was white like meade of asphodel

So I'm not too sure if this poem is an eckphrastic poem or not.  But the mention of Bartholomew is a reference to the St. Bartholomew's Massacre.



And this is the morning after perhaps, or some time later.  The present of the poem isn't too clear; however, the vivid descriptions are clear.  The reference to "Bartholomew's men" could reference the Catholics that were hunting down the Protestants putting a negative spin on Catholicism, and the heroes could refer to the Protestants, but look at how heroes are depicted "white," and more "white" and even though they are bare, the connotation of "white" or something pure comes through.  "Not all were white, some gory and fabulous / Whom the sword had pierced and then the grey wolf eaten."  And the play on colors continue in which the shift becomes more darker and grimmer.

"But the brother reasoned that herores' flesh was thus / Flesh fails, and the postured bones lie weather-beaten."  The "brother" here refers to the friar, and the friar is "reasoning," what? That flesh fails.  Such a crude statement, but the brother is trying to focus on something more -- the soul, perhaps, the soul, probably.

There's a sense of cynicism with the next stanza focusing on "The lords of chivalry" who won and I think, for me, it's the forced rhyme of "yeomen" and "foemen" that cliches it.  Yes, it's terminology that should be valid for the time frame of St. Bartholomew's Massacre, but not so much during John Crowe Ransom's time.  Here, the language is more pointed "went home" and more direct, "but little it mattered."

Now compare the pointed and direct stanza with this description of a dead warrior, the loser, "Beneath the blue ogive of the firmament /Was a dead warrior, clutching whose mighty knees / Was a leman, who with her flame had warmed his tent."  A slight bit of the proactive here, but the proactive based on the dead states more than the "lords of chivalry."  Past me wrote lovers based on this line, "For him enduring all men's pleasantries."  Not so much lovers, but dealing with "want."  The romance is out of chivalry.

And yes there's more disillusionment going on with, "Lay the white stallion and his rider thrown"  which could be a symbol for the friar unhinging the symbols of chivalry, or in this case, those that represent Catholicism also since this line, "And the little groin of the knight was spilled by a stone" is probably not the way someone wants to go.

Then there's mention of "a crooked blade / Deep in the belly of a lugubrious wight;" and note the semi-colon -- the unfortunate soul has a a blade through it, the connection is the blade, "But strange apparatus was if for Carmelite" a holy metal to smite others.  Here's the question, does the holy metal purify or destroy those in the way.  Visually destroy.  Spiritually purify.  Right?

The last stanza goes back to the friar after thinking all these images up, but also note how the language that shifts the tone goes towards a cynicism.

     Then he sat upon a hill and bowed his head
     As under a riddle, and in deep surmise
     So still that he likened himself unto those dead
     Whom the kites of Heaven solicited with sweet cries.

Note that the friar compares with the dead that "Heaven solicited with sweet cries" those that died under the blade.  But there's no connection with the friar and the people who done the deed.  Are the people who slaughter in the name of religion not solicited with sweet cries of Heaven.  I don't know.  But there's going to be crying of some sort involved.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Analysis of "This is a City of Bridges" by Jeff Dolven

Original poem reprinted online here: "This is a City of Bridges" by Jeff Dolven
Originally read: August 1, 2014
More information about the Poet: Jeff Dolven


What I wrote in the beginning, "quatrains xaxa rhyme [scheme]"  There's a focus on a gap.  In the first line, there's the repetition of the title, "This is a city of bridges," but the stanza changes the context and a different focus, "thought the water is mostly fled; / a city of ambitious span and empty bed."  Note that the semi-colon brings in the connection of reinterpretation of the same scene.  "Water has fled" and an "empty bed" state similar visual images, but different tones.  The first is more of the "escape of nature" and the second the "escape of people."

However, the speaker doesn't go into the reinterpretations and rather focuses on the visual.  "It makes for a curious skyline:"  Note the usage of "it" in the  first line -- noting more of the situation which creates a "curious skyline."  But what of the situation is described -- more so repeated?  Something empty with a curvature pointing out that emptiness.  "From the road you'd think / of skyscrapers at a watering hole / stooping to drink water."  Again, the speaker reinterprets the scene for the "you."  from the direct, to now the metaphor with, "except that there's no water" a phrase that reinforces the lack of something.

"The old canals are parched , / an no one comes to sing or suckle / under the arch"  Here the difference here is that the speaker talks about the lack of people here -- the lack of people who makes use of the empty space.  Ah, but the speaker uses the empty space for interpretation, to state what he's trying to express with the "you" and what about the "you"?

     and no one quite remembers
     what the bridges were for,
     what we were getting over, and why
     we're still building more.

Here the speaker brings in the you on to the speaker's side.  The speaker addresses the general populace for not knowing; meanwhile, the speaker reinterprets the same scene but this time wondering more of a purpose rather than the visual, but it is the visual that keeps people going to build more.

"But build we do."  Stop.  Now this becomes self-referential.  The speaker, the general populace builds more bridges -- more overhangs over emptiness to reinterpret.  Why?  "Bridges to make us free. / At the foot of each the traveler has a choice of three"  here past me pointed out how sing-songy the "free" and "three" rhyme together.   And here, it's not a detriment, here there's a jovial tone, something, as a community, brings all of "us" together with a dash a cynicism.

"But nowhere to rest at nightfall / when the bridges chase their tails."  It's the construction that matters, who cares about sleep? "churning between dusk and dawn / like buried wheels."  Yet another reinterpretation of the same scene.  But this time the focus is on a circle, a cycle.  What begins and ends and begins again?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Analysis of "Sense of Place" by Alan Soldofsky

Original poem reprinted online here: "Sense of Place" by Alan Soldofsky
Originally read: Three years ago (?)
More information about the Poet: Alan Soldofsky





I remember reading earlier drafts of this poem, and now I see it as the first poem on the Poetry Flash site for the past couple of months on the left hand side -- first poem featured.  I thought, well, might as well analyze this because I do think this is the core poem in Alan Soldofky's collection, In the Buddha Factory.

But first, what I remembered from a previous draft of the poem.  Back in 2010, I probably went to Alan Soldofsky's, the director of San Jose State's MFA program, office for some school related advice, probably knowing where I stand in the MFA program, or how many credits I needed to graduate.  At the time he was working on In the Buddha Factory and the manuscript was probably in its seventh to eighth draft.  I think I got  direct and brief answers to my questions which I do not remember.  But I do remember him asking me to do copy edits to his manuscript.

I asked how long do I have.  The weekend.

In the feverish rush to find grammatical and spelling errors, I slowed down on this poem.  In the draft I read, I felt something was off about this poem.  The poem didn't flow.  I sort of overstepped my bounds, and I rearranged the sections to what I saw the poem as -- the play, but eventual need for defined places and roles.

This is why I think this poem is the core poem in the collection.  This poem, in it' published incarnation, is placed somewhat near beginning/middle of the collection  In this position, the poem summarizes the importance of the previous poems, the loss and the act of loss, and also indicates where the rest of the poems in the collection are headed, defining loss (and more importantly) the actions leading to loss as self.

In the first three stanzas of the poem, the speaker is very specific on places, especially how place is defined by the actions of what happened there, "Market St. / mirrors the sky," duplicitous emptiness to, "Palace Hotel, where in 1930 / Warren G. Harding died,"  death defining a place to "After Teddy Roosevelt / spent the night in Yosemite on Glacier Point / he said 'Bully'" publicity defining place. The focus here is based on the negative or nothingness defining a place.

"A place is more real when you imagine it."  The "you" here reads along the same line as the "mirrors the sky" line -- a more self-reflective stance so when the speaker goes on about innocuous facts"In Yosemite Valley there are three hotels [...]" there's a greater sense of refocus with the forceful intrusion of the speaker, "I attempt not to notice."  A steadfast statement which implies moving away from remembering a place by history.

I finished the copy edits on time.  How? All it is is reading with a pen in hand.  I had to go to his house to drop off the copy-edited manuscript.  I showed him what my marks meant.  The majority of the time he just gave that nod that signified thanks -- these will be taken under consideration.

I showed him how I marked "Sense of Place" and told him the importance of the build up, and how the last line should be where it is.  On how the push and pull of the personal identification through definition of place is solidified with the separation of the encyclopedic and personal tone.  I didn't say what I just wrote, maybe I said something far less structured or perhaps I added too much meaning to the poem.  He thanked me.  A job was done regardless.

After the break in the poem, the speaker states, "I'm one thing in one place, something else / in another."  I wrote down "shifts in definition,"  but the tone is more playful here in which the speaker was able to have this experience:

     [...]When I drank champagne
     on the deck in Belvedere gazing at the houses
     on the hill above the harbor,
     I felt oppressed by the beauty.

Although tone is playful in the beginning, the line, "I felt oppressed by the beauty" has a splash of cynicism -- what is going on, the romantic sublime?  No, an attempt not to notice.  Even though there's the name of the place "Belvedere" note that the amount of detail is far less.  There's no historical action that defines the place, the place is defined by observation which comes off pretty general with, "The skyline across the water / too bright despite the overcast, / my eyes numb with the bone-white glare."

But then comes the allusion to history with "Drake dropped anchor / a few miles from here."  And here there's the possibility the speaker may regress to the over-importance of history and, but note the single name reference different from the full names used above.  The reference isn't used in a sense of reverence rather rumor with a slight tone of cynicism used earlier, "Some claim he missed the bay altogether, / that he marked his damp, bitter days farther north / lost in some colorless recess of time."

Yes, I wrote down a line underneath that stanza.  I remember a break was there last time, and, to me, it would make sense to have it still there.  I received an e-mail a year and a couple months ago from Alan, and -- the Fall of 2012 that In the Buddha Factory was getting published.   I emailed him back stating that I was happy for him, that "A Sense of Place" and "Novel" were great memorable poems and the collection should be published.

Here's the trick with the stanza after the "colorless recess of time."  The majority of the stanza focused around a quote, but the quote isn't important.  What's important is this line, "It's important to learn the birds' names."  Yes, writing worthwhile lines are important -- but that's just rhetoric.  Names of the residence, current, is important.  More important than the past bedraggled with death and making statements.

So when the next stanza list the name of birds, "western tanagers, red sapsuckers, / solitary vireos, chirping sparrows" the list reaffirms the specificity to the area, not the history.  But the naming triggers a very specific memory which leads off with, "Birds learn their songs when they are born.  The fledgling duplicates its parents' call" to the speaker's son, Adam.

The narrative with Adam is short, but has two distinct scene 1) memorization of a term 2) memorization of a place.  The first scene has specific language learned by Adam, "pointed to the blackberry thorns / and excitedly repeated his now word: prickles."  and how the language becomes personal, "It became a joke between us."  The second scene then pulls the language between the both of them to the speaker, "I should remember / running terrified through the neighborhood calling him."  Note the flow of these lines encompass the structure of the poem, but in reverse, personal, to collaborative, to encyclopedic.  And at the end of this stanza there is the merge of all three:

     [...] with trumpetvine and jasmine.
     Rooster and mourning doves call
     through the dawn beneath the roar
     of jet planes.

Name of plants, then of animals calling as one that, perhaps, sound louder than the jet planes overhead (noise pollution from the top to the personal level).

The personal comes with the rhetoric in the last two lines, "What we call hills are not hills. /  They are mountains."  Past me wrote, "interpretation: signifies /signified?  The importance of the signified"   Note the coupling coming from definition "we call hills"  and this is based on textbook definition.  The line "They are mountains" the correction is more personal.  The inability to  compartmentalize to small, because when up close, all hills look like mountains.

I went to the book release party, bought my copy of the collection.  It's nice looking with the construction of Buddha as tall as a mountain (top), or a hill up close (bottom) on the cover.  I sat in the back wondering what the reading order would be.  The first poem Alan read was "Sense of Place."  Start off strong first, right?

Analysis of "Mutability" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Original poem reprinted online here: "Mutability" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Originally read: July 31, 2013
More information about the Poet: Percy Bysshe Shelley


Four quatrains.  ABAB rhyme scheme.  The rhyme scheme would indicate a consistent separation and returning -- changing.  However, the first stanza, mostly dealing with natural image, brings a sense of unveiling.  The speaker states that "We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;" and note the semi-colon in which indicates a connection.  "How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver / Streaking the darkness radiantly!"  So note, the motions of the clouds represent the "we": speed, gleam, quiver.  It seems like a very marvelous time, "-- / yet soon Night closes round, and they are lost"  So the moment is lost when it's morning -- light revealing the time.

So one of the key words here is "or" in the second stanza.  What does the "or" compare?  "Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings / give various responses to each varying blast."  Past me noted "vary" key adjective (out of sync).  From the first line, it can be inferred the comparison could be the relationship -- fun in the dark, not so much during the day.  But the image of the "lyres" giving varying responses.  Yes, it is music, but, no, it's not harmonious.  Even the most pleasing sounds don't mesh well when played together, "To whose frail frame no second motion brings / One mood or modulation like the last."

The third stanza returns to the coupling (contrary to the individual sound in stanza two):

     We rest -- A dream has power to poison sleep
     We rise -- One wandering thought pollutes the day
     We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep.
     Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away.

Here the speaker goes over how contrary actions have similar consequences.  Resting and rising either poisons or pollutes -- note note the area, but the mind.  But how?  I think "wandering" serves as the key term in the first two lines.  As music is dissonant, wandering causes a lack of focus.  And what should the focus return to -- how "we" feel, conceive "or" reason.  Separate entities that both experience like laughing or crying.  Both feel them together.

"It is the same!"  Like shared emotions, and shared experience, right?  Or at this is what the speaker wants.  When the speaker exclaims things being the same, I get a sense of desperation.  Note the lack of the "other" in the poem as to not create "dissonance."  This poem is a concoction examining the we where each part doesn't wander. "The path of its departure still is free: / Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow, / Nought may endure but Mutability."

The turn with the last three lines is the acknowledgement of departure.  In stanza three, the focus wasn't departure, rather how one can depart.  When focused on someone actually leaving, the poem goes didactic and focuses on "man" as a concept.

And so when the speaker claim (not proclaim or exclaim) that nothing can endure except change, the concept of change, there is not a strong sense of positive or negative connotation.  But there isn't a sense of acceptance either, only acknowledgment that things will always change.  It's as if the poem declines to take a stance in order to keep the "we" active.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Analysis of "Mud" by Alice Teeter

Original poem reprinted online here: "Mud" by Alice Teeter
Originally read: July 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Alice Teeter


"No punctuation" is the firs thing I wrote at the top.  It's not that punctuation is needed to make a poem, but it's how the poem works with the lack of punctuation.  And here, instead of a period, or a pause, there's a space between which goes nicely with the topic of "Female creator -- materials *mud *clay."

The first stanza is more expository in approach.  There's no dramatic action, only the action of building someone up, "She builds a man from the mud    As far as the horizon / in all directions there is only clay     "  Note the difference between clay and mud, something malleable (mud) versus something already hardened (clay)  "cracked as if a note / deep under the earth had sounded leaving large plates / of mud separated by clefts of a deeper red"  and here the lines separate appearances of each -- clay having more of purposefully cracked pieces of clay and the "deeper red" pieces of mud:

     She has taken her hands and dug deep 
     where it is still wet an fluid     She shapes the man 
     curls his muscles   the softest mud on his torso 
     the hardest applied to his feet and hands

Past me noted that the "softest" mud on the torso is like a cover, but not protection.  It's the area where the "she" wants to mold; meanwhile, the hardest mud is on the feet and hands -- transportation and tools based on movement and momentum.

After such focused creation the creator is tired, "covered in mud herself" note here is when the correlation between creator and creation comes into effect.  In the beginning, it's more of one in control of the other, but now, "she looks just like him    She finishes his head / with hard clay    stops    steps back to rest    gazes / at his features    admires his beauty    Sighs"  the spaces, to me, add the quality of pondering not only from the creator but also the speaker.  The features are not described, rather the intention of beauty.  Also note that the head is made out of "hard clay" which is defined earlier as something cracked, but of note which hides the "mud" underneath.

The momentum comes to fruition with the action of, "Quickly she takes her thumbs and scoops the mud / away from his eyes"  and here the creation is able to see for the first time, but the perspective is still on the creator and how the eyes are, "The whites / bright against the wet oxblood of his face"  Visual.  Then the interpretation, "He stares at her     focused and alert / His eyes cut fear into her heart"  and past me noted two things with the last line, "recognition" and "cognition"

Recognition -- the creation of mud sees the creator in mud.  They are similar, and note there isn't a stratification here or any sort of implied communication expressed from the creation.  The eyes are focused and alert.

Cognitive -- Here it gets a bit tricky.  The cognition is not on the creation, but on the creator.  What has she done?  Given something liker her the ability to recognize her as a creator.  There's a sense of lost power there.  But what is lost is not understood.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Analysis of "Ha Ha Unicorns" by Eileen G'Sell

Original poem reprinted online here: "Ha Ha Unicorns" by Eileen G'Sell
Originally read: July 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Eileen G'Sell



The beginning of this poem uses a weird sort of logic, I don't know my philosophy very to label what type of logic though, "To marry is to compromise; I hate compromise.  I hate compromise and I love unicorns."  I rarely use the term symbol in my analyses these days.  Why?  I think it's how the term operates.  Symbol -- something that represents an idea, a process, or a physical entity.  It's easy to say one thing is a symbol of another thin (i.e. the flag represents a country, this apple symbolizes death) but I tend to wonder how these symbols are formed, and I think I spend too much time extrapolating how techniques are used (or at least that's how I want to spend my time with this).

Anyway, this poem plays with the idea of symbol.   If marriage symbolizes compromise, and speaker hates compromise, then speaker hates marriages...but loves unicorns.  How does marriage symbolize compromise?

"Marriage is saying 'I do' believe that this is it, forever."  Time.  Here the initial definition is compromise (marriage as well) represents a commitment to something forever -- regardless of knowing what forever is.  Meanwhile, "Unicorns do not exist yet people love them anyway."  Ah, if marriage is real compromise based on time, then unicorns represent imaginary but love.  Within these lines, the it seems the speaker can't bring these two concept together and defines each through implied negation -- what marriage is or is not, and what a unicorn is or is not "Marriage very much exists yet none contain unicorns."

"Unity is fallacy but faking it is fun"  And I think here, the speaker punctuates the humor behind the logic through the alliteration.  The speaker is having fun separating both sides out.  Or at least taking the logic lightly.  Until, "You never have to fake it with a unicorn, like you never have to fuck in a solid marriage."  The difference between fuck and make love.  Or the difference between physical intimacy being mandatory or a luxury in a relationship.  And, yes, the word "fuck" is used to shock, "For some, to fuck is to compromise."  But the word is the allusion which hides the fact that the speaker goes from absolutes to certain cases with the phrase "for some"  And this is where the focus is.  The general will eventually turn personal by the end of the poem.

"For some, unicorns are far away.  For some, marriage is a public decree: 'I do not believe in unicorns.' And for those who divorce--with shaking manes, with glittery 'never-again-will-I'"  Here is the merge based on image with the mention of "shaking manes".  People are unicorns, not really.  The connection is cursory based on image, but I think it's enough to show that the speaker is making a connection and somewhat changing the tone, for this line, to be taken a little more serious, but acknowledge the play still going on until the speaker confirms the connection with, "I would like to believe in unicorns; I would have to believe that you are are one."  It's a a transition line which leads to a centralized focus.

"If you are it means in fact that unicorns very much exist, which means that marriage that marriage is that flagrant disavowal of fact."  I just want to note how I think the "very" works in this line -- it adds to the child-like logical connection going on.  And "very" is a hard word to put in a poem, "Given this, marriage sounds a lot more fun."  This "conclusion" starts off an anaphora chain of Given this which kind of simulates compromise, not of the self, but of the "idea.

"Given this, compromise doesn't sound so bad.  Given this, I would love to have you forever and never hate what I've never had."  Past me wrote this for "never had" -- "unicorn, compromise -- speaker tricks self through 'logic'."  And the play leads up to the idea: logic only takes a person so far.  Then "fun" takes over and compromises just suddenly happen.

There are a few poems that end hopeful and be earnest.  I think this poem works because it's play is not too cynical and the logical is not too involved.  The fun comes to the forefront, then the fortunate (unfortunate) decision.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Analysis of "The Victor Dog" by James Merrill

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Victor Dog" by James Merrill
Originally read: July 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Merrill




Quatrains.  ABBA rhyme scheme.  The poem has ten stanzas.  The general gist of the poem is how a dog is trained to listen to music (note how to "feel" music) but this is not the main function of the poem.  Rather the poem goes through distinctive musical styles in which the speaker is able to play in the poem due to the persona taking more of the "judgmental role."

The play starts with the first line, "Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez," the play of just naming musicians through alliteration, but who is listening here, "The little white dog on the Victor label / Listens long and hard as he is able.  It's all in a days work, whatever plays."  The actions of the dog builds him up to a metaphor.  What type of metaphor?  The one that takes responsibility for the following play.  This is how the "dog" interprets the music."

"From judgement, it would seem, he has refrained. / He even listens earnestly to Bloch," The dog chooses, not the speaker.  This brings up the point of how well does the reader have to understand each musical reference.  As with all allusions and references, it is up to the poem to entice the reader into researching Bloch who, "builds a church upon our acid rock." But the focus goes back to the dog, "He's man's--no--he's the Leiermann's best friend."  The judgement and description of the dog is more play, but play about the dog, not a judgement on the music, once again.

"Or would be if hearing and listening were the same."  The distinction is placed here.  Note though, there is no value judgement on either or, just noting the difference.  "Does he hear?  I fancy he rather smells / Those lemon-gold arpeggios in Ravel's 'Les jets d'eau du palais de ceux qui saiment."  The mention of the senses indicate experience -- if the dog is unable to "hear" the dog is still able to "experience" and respond.  The dog, built up by the speaker, experiences and thinks.

"He ponders the Schumann Concerto's tall willow hit / By lighting, and stays put."  Note the distinction between thinking about sound and the actual sound.  There's a slight implication that the dog might not "stay put" and the sound of lightning based on the mention of the action.  However, in the mode of pondering, the dog is either a) on another level of thinking or b) not "truly" thinking about the music.  "When he surmises / Through on of Bach's eternal boxwood mazes / The oboe pungent as a bitch in heat," the dog is thinking and relating to it's own experience -- sure the simile is crass in human standards, but in "dog standards" it's the only phrase that could bring out an intrinsic instinctual desire based on smell (which is mentioned in an earlier stanza as a primary sense)

"Or when the calypso decants its raw bay rum / Or the moon in Worzzeck reddens ripe for murder, / He doesn't sneeze or howl; he just listens harder."  Ah, the distinction is made.  The dog listens.  By the standards in the poem, to hear is based on the sense, the listen is based on trying to understand through the sense.  And the dog listens.  "Adamant needles bear down on him from / Whirling of outer space, too black, too near- But he was taught as a puppy not to flinch."  So here's the thing about listening.

You have to teach a dog to listen.   Yes, there's the chance of a parallel metaphor that humans need to be taught to listen as well.  But the act of listening is for the "dog" -- so the grandiose statement and idea is buffered a bit.  Now the benefits or drawbacks of being taught to listen, "Much less to imitate his bĂȘte noire Blanche / Who barked, fat foolish creature, at King Lear"  is how to express listening.  Experience is taking things in.  Expressing is how one deals with experience.  And with these lines the dog (not the human, not the speaker) has less intimate feel, was once able to bark at King Lear, but perhaps, it is implied that the dog cannot anymore.

"Still others fought in the road's filth over Jezebel, / Slavered on hearths of horned and pelted barons."  Here "the others" come into play here and look how exaggerated "the others" actions are, fight, slaver, pelt -- all very physical reactions instead of contemplative and this is what the dog, inately, wants to do, "His forebears lacked, to say the least, forbearance. / Can nature change in him? Nothing's impossible."  Note the rhetorical question, now, is based more on the speaker's judgement.  Note until now, the speaker did not judge the music -- it's the dog, the listener, the one who expereience, but is unable to emote:

     The last chord fades.  the night is cold and fine.
     His master's voice rasps through the grooves' bare grooves.
     Obediently, in silence like the grave's
     He sleeps there on the still-warm gramophone.

The master comes into play with these lines, but also note that the power the master is set in more of the exposition.  The master has trained the dog -- to do what? "silence like the grave" and "sleep there on the still-warm gramophone."  When, and where, and (implicitly) how to listen to music.

However, the poem continues on to the only free place for a dog, "Only to dream he is at the premiere of Handel / Opera long thought lost-ll Cane Minroe."  This is what the dog desires -- there's an argument here that the teachings are so ingrained in the dog that the dog desires nothing more or that the dog is so beyond basic desires that the dog wants more.  Meh whatever works for the reader.  Why am I so flippant?

"Its allegorical subject is the story!"  That's right, the dog makes this distinction, and the speaker does in a sense, but it's buffed by the dream of the dog.  The allegory, what this scene represents, is the story -- note this applies to Handel, and can be implied with the rest of this poem, which I have been doing but not committing.  Why?

A little dog revolving around a spindle / Gives rise to harmonies beyond belief."  the poem goes into the surreal based on the dream sequence.  How the dog is tied to the sound.  I feel the speaker is playing with the idea of finding meaning in this poem by bringing in the absurd.  A cast of stars...Is there in Victor's heart / No honey for the vanquished? Art is Art. / The life it ask of us is a dog's life."  The last two sentences seem to be important here, what Art asks of "us" is a dog's life.  So this poem confirms itself as an Ars Poetica here, but when all the metaphors and allusions are possible explained out, (like what I did), the confirmation brings more suspicion to me.  The play in the poem stands out the most, but not the conclusion.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Analysis of "Paradoxes and Oxymorons" by John Ashbery

Original poem reprinted online here: "Paradoxes and Oxymorons" by John Ashbery
Originally read: July 27, 2013 (I printed the poem out again 11/4)
More information about the Poet: John Ashbery


This is a poem that the Poetry Foundation has an extensive guide and analysis on to not only understand the poem, but to teach the poem to any age level.  For me, I read the poem and I thought it was a very good poem talking about learning about poetry.  Not necessarily an Ars Poetica, but this is a poem, I feel, a lot of students, young or old, can relate to.

The first stanza is very straight forward, "The poem is concerned with language on a very plain level. / Look at it talking to you.  You look out a window."  The speaker sets up a relationship between the reader and the poem -- something amiss, "Or pretend to fidget. / You have it but you don't have it.  / You miss it, it misses you.  You miss each other."  Confidence.  Perhaps.  It's the ability to try to understand something, that the reader doesn't want to.  Poems aren't mandatory, they're a luxury.  And so, when a reader, forced to read and, unfortunately enough, interpret the poem has an idea, it's maybe not the right idea.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot."  A very telling line based on anthropomorphism.  Here, the language is very plain, and puts the responsibility of ownership back to the reader.  But also note that the "poem" been given personality, wants.  But does the reader want?  "What's a plain level?  It is that and other things, / Bringing a system of them into play. Play?"  Ah, play, the rhetorical questions seem simple, but the question asks the core reasons on how and why to read a poem.  Why can't a poem be read in plain language?  Why is it unfun to read a poem?  And here, the speaker cannot define play for the poem, but intrudes in the poem to describe what play means to the speaker:

     Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be
   
     A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
     As in the division of grace these long August days
     Without proof.  Open-ended.

And this is where the poem turns from a lecture, to the personal, and back to the lecture again.  Note the difference of language used for the definition.  More based on personal thought that comes off ambiguous "a deeper outside thing," or "A dreamed role pattern," or "As in the division of grace these long August days without proof"  -- here the speaker takes control, responsibility, this is play.  Not focusing on what others want the reader to think about the poem, but what the reader thinks about the poem, "Open-ended"  and through this open-endedness, "And before you know / It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters."

"It" is a the key word in this poem -- the unwritable which the writer has to, unfortunately, write about and the reader, unfortunately, has to interpret.  It's the need to chronicle such thoughts and the question is why?

"It has been played once more.  I think you exist only /To tease me into doing it, on your level and then you aren't there" The paradox.  Writer's write for the readers who are afraid respond, to be wrong, to look into.  Poem's aren't the only things that are sad because they aren't looked at.

"Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem / Has set me softly down beside you.  The poem is you."  How sensual are these are these last lines, and regardless on how the writer feels about his/her own work -- the closet a writer and reader get to each other is through their work.  And, the "different" attitude is -- well that's enough.  Even ignored, the mere presence of someone at least attempting to read the poem "the right way" is enough.  Is it?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Analysis of "It was a hard thing to undo this knot" by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Original poem reprinted online here: "It was a hard thing to undo this knot" by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Originally read: July 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gerard Manley Hopkins



Rhymed couplets.  Ballade?  This was my first assumption on the form.  However, now, I don't think this poem is a ballade (based on the definition of the ballade.  Basically, I'm reading this poem from a couplet perspective and looking at the connection from couplet to couplet.

"It was a hard thing to undo this knot. / The rainbow shines, but only in the thought"  First thin I wrote was "what knot?"  And then I kind of figured that knot could be another way of stating "quandary" or "curiousity".  However,  the "rainbow" line is kind of weird.  The two images don't really tie in together.  Even so, there are are two parties in play -- the I who has to undo the knot and the you which is further delved into the next couplet.

"Of him that looks.  Yet not in that alone, / For who makes rainbows by invention?"  The second is the "him,"  the divine.  The rhetorical questions serves to contrast the knot quandary by adding another question.  Who makes rainbows by invention?  Implying that rainbows are created, not invented.  And the he creates in the physical rendition and mind.

"And many standing round a waterfall / See one bow each, yet not the same at all,"  We're away from the knot and towards a bow  And here the word "bow" is played with.  Yes, there's the physical description of a bow (the violin kind and the parts of rainbow are like the strings) but also the idea of genuflect, and changing the knot into something beautiful like a bow on top a present, or a bow like in bow and arrow, "yet not the same at all."

\"But each a hand's breadth further than the next / The sun on falling waters writes the text."  Here the poem goes back to the divine creating and the "I" and "we' interpreting.  There's one core that writes, there are many that interpret.

"Which yet is the eye or the thought. / It was a hard thing to undo this knot."  Past me wrote, "repent" pointing to "hard thing."  However now, with the mention of the divine and how it creates, the quandary seems like this:  If the divine is the only entity that creates, what is the writer?  The writer is an interpreter.  Is the writer unable or incapable of creation, but only interpretation.  If yes, then what is the point of self expression.  If no, does this thought  of creation, biased through interpretation, apply to all texts...all texts?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Analysis of "Steel" by Kwame Dawes

Original poem reprinted online here: "Steel" by Kwame Dawes
Originally read: July 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Kwame Dawes



The prophetic, Whitman-esque, voice appears in this poem, but in a more grim context.  But the beginning of the poem feels expansive when discussing items and place.

The initial image is of, "A truckload of fresh watermelons,"  which is innocuous enough and then the movement comes in, "cutting through so many states: Arkansas, West Virginia, Maryland, into the smoke-heavy Pennsylvania cities;"  the places listed are so specific as though the poem addresses them, but note the semi-colon at the end of the expanse.

"from red dirt like a land soaked / in blood to the dark loam of this new / land"  high metaphor here.  In these lands it's the interpretation rather of the place, but note the simile used for comparison noting what it looks like instead of is.  And it is in the comparison that the speaker pinpoints a specific location, "Pittburgh's / dark uneven skyline"  then goes further into the perspective.

     [...] where
     we have found shelter
     while the crippled leader
     waits to promote healing
     for a nation starving
     on itself

the introduction of the appears here and they are suffering.  Why is the we not introduced in the beginning?  I think the switch between the idyllic to the grim shows the difference between broad and specific strokes.  Here the specific is the we.  The broad is the "crippled lead /waits to promote healing."  What type of healing?  What is needed? Versus, "a nation starving / on itself."  Where the specific places mentioned in the beginning come into play here -- and they, just like the "we" are starving on itself.

The poem then goes more specific onto the people Two men are hungry and "laugh bitter / laughs," as they work.  Then the poem goes towards a Whitman-esque anaphora of, "Hear the engine clunking,  hear the steel of a new century / creaking." And with these lines there is a sense of cynicism.  Yes, the actions are specific, but note the suffering in order to create a "new century" which doesn't thrive, but "creaks."  The sonic device is discordant in the poem marking the cynicism.

Then the poem goes back to the "blood" idea but this time, "There is blood / in the sky -- at dawn, the city / takes them in like women."  Yes, the image is a bit cliche, but that guttural palpable sense is further instigated here.  Furthermore, the simile sort of degrades the concept of women, but in doing so degrades the citizen of the nation.  It's a touchy line.

Then from a physical struggle perspective comes the mental, "Inside  them all memory / becomes the fiction of survival."  And the link of survival comes a zombie reference:

     here the dead have hands
     that can caress and heal,
     hands that can push a living
     body into a grave, hold it there,
     and the living get to sing.

Initially, the dead and living reference felt comical (just because my frame of mind), but I understand the more serious usage here.  In order for the living to express anything other than suffering, the dead, or the memory of the dead have to act -- sometimes like a salve, or sometimes like a burden -- whichever the case, the memory of the dead has to be memorable, has to be something worth singing about.

"This is a nation of young men, / dark with the legacies / of brokeness,"   These lines are the focus of "men" and impact (or little impact) on the creation of a nation.  Note here that the focus is on young men in which are broken and here, "men who know / that life is short, that the world / bring blood" the focus is of men -- broken doesn't mean dead, rather some "innocent" things have to be let go -- the idea of legacy in a positive light and learning, "that peace / is a night of quiet repose / while the dogs howl in the woods" silence for men, only "dogs" howl.  "men who know the comfort / of steel, cold as mist at dawn / pure burnished steel." Steel used in the noun form and the adjective form.  The noun form is what the men, who are suffering, work for and nothing else, there's no emotional attachment there.

But then the word comfort comes in, and I think it applies to the adjective steel -- to be in a state of hardened self and working towards something. It's not the joy of work, it's the action of work being like a pin to show troubles.  The last line has remnants of cynicism, but mostly, for me, there's more sincerity than cynicism.