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.

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