Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Analysis of "Camma" by Oscar Wilde

Original poem reprinted online here: "Camma" by Oscar Wilde
Originally read: September 27, 2013
More information about the Poet: Oscar Wilde


Italian sonnet. (abba. cddc, efgefg).  Again I focus on the structure of the piece first, why?  The structure informs some hints on how to read the poem -- the Italian sonnet having more of a question (first stanza) and answer (second stanza) approach with a turn (volta, line 9 usually).  In any case, the poem is more about playing on allusions, established references.

"As one who poring on a Grecian urn," I thought this would be an allusion to Keat's "Ode to a Grecian Urn," and perhaps it is, but the next couple of lines refers to the shape of gods, "Scans the fair shapes some Attic hand hath made, / God with slim goddess, goodly man with maid,"  Note the comparison with a God with a slim goddess, and a goodly man with maid -- bringing the divine back down for something more tangible.

"And for their beauty's sake is loth to turn / And face the obvious day, must I not year / For many a secret moon of indolent bliss"   The play on time where there's a reinforcement of tropes -- day shown, night secret, "When in the midmost shrine of Artemis / I see thee standing, antique-limbed, and stern?" Note that the speaker sees someone standing there -- some beauty -- in the secret moon, the shire of Artemis.

And here's the turn, "And yet -- methinks I'd rather see thee play / That serpent of old nile, whose witchery / Made old Emperors drunk"  The first stanza is moistly about bringing the divine beauty back down to earth to be revered at a distance; however, the speaker is now contending that the same beauty be used to be close, to burn, to betray -- note how the shift of allusions turn from Greek to Egyption -- Cleopatra and Antony perhaps?

Well, that allusion becomes concrete with the last three lines, "Our stage iwht all thy mimic pageants! Nay, / I am grown sick of unreal passions, make / The world thine Actium, me thine Antony!"  Divine beauty from afar leads to unreal passions.  Serpent like lust so close, so poisonous -- the venom is real.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Analysis of "How I Understand Eternity' by Brian Swann

Original poem reprinted online here: "How I Understand Eternity' by Brian Swann
Originally read: September 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: Brian Swann


Even though the first line is a statement, the line brings up an rhetorical question, "Organisms evolved colors before / there were eyes to see them." The question the reader imposes on this line is, "why?"  But the thing about this poem is how the poem evolves.  Don't be tricked by the change in the first line.

"I take a look before floating / to the Cretaceous where colors / are now butterflies and beetles."  Not a redefinition, a shift of colors take shape into actual specific animals -- butterflies and beetles.  Two things of note, the introduction of the "I" speaker comes in as an observer, and the adjusted lines structure the evolution of the poem.

"shaping themselves to flowers / of sassafras and magnolia."  Now the poem goes into a stream-of-consciousness mode in which transforms the colors from insects to flowers to another secent.

"Their / scents fill my mind while night / starts to warp round me"  A part of me feels these lines take away from the play earlier -- the enforcement of the speaker in the sublime.  The description of the sensation seems mediocre compared by the previous descriptive play, but the image turns to allusion with, "and a / rabbit in the doorway pauses / by a half-eaten apple."

Yes, there could be an allusion to two different fairy tales: Alice in Wonderland (rabbit -- through the doorway), and Sleeping Beauty (half-eaten apple).  Is it a stretch for me to make these connections?  Perhaps.  But the poem at this moment is open to interpretation because the images and the ideas shift (more or less) fluidly.

"I watch / the lamplight's clear pool / on the ancient pinewood planks"  Note how the shift is on the speaker and then is decentralized to the lamplight.  The observation is the I, the possession is the lamplight.  And what is "clear pool"?  Light, maybe.  Or perhaps structure.

          fall through cracks and knotholes
     onto the lives of mice as starlight
          filters through the window
     and falls on me.

Yes, a pretty image.  But note that this "pool" descends and transforms into two different purposes.  To mice, the pool is starlight (I know the as is there).  The ability to comprehend shifts.  As majestic as "Starlight" sounds, it's just light to mice; however, filtered through a window, this light also falls on the speaker in which throughout the poem doesn't place meaning behind the light, rather places experience -- the expansion of perception.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Analysis of "A Blessing" by James Wright

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Blessing" by James Wright
Originally read: September 26, 2013
More information about the Poet: James Wright


Narrative with specifics with an expansive end.  This is how I remembered this poem.  And, yes, another famous poem with many strong critical, and analytic essays.  The common idea with all the critical essays I've read is this: the way the speaker interprets the world.

Specific, "Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota. / Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass."  Here the language fluctuates, but is specific -- location to scenery -- just the way the descriptions play from direction to metaphorical which continues:

     And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
     Darken with kindness
     They have come gladly out of the willows
     To welcome my friend and me.

The phrase to look out for is "Darken with kindness." Some critics think this opens the poem to more of a Jungian shadow play.  Others see this as a twist of color play in the poem (dark instead of light being kind).  Yeah, I can't say which critics though...that's bad of me.  In any case, there seems to be a turn here into the high metaphor so keep in mind the "friend" that is also welcomed.

And even thought both of them are welcomed, "We step over the barbed wire into the pasture / Where they have been grazing all day, alone."  Both of them intrude onto the scene where the horses, "ripple tensly, they can hardly contain their happiness / That we have come."  Now the interpretation is pushed further onto the ponies.  The speaker is wanting to see happiness in this "darkened kindness" in which they "reciprocate" and in which the speaker adds another narrative about the ponies.

"They bow shyly as wet swans.  They love each other / There is no loneliness like theirs."  Past me felt like this was a huge line and started listing good and bad attributes of the ponies.  But looking back, I think this line is more self-reflexive.  Where is the friend in this moment?  The speaker is lonely and happy in his interpretations and outlook -- just like the ponies, "At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness."  The mention of darkness here again seems like a feint, this lines opens up a familiarity here.

"I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, / For she has walked over to me / And nuzzled my left hand."  If we're talking about Jung here, then this would be the anima or rather the speaker's want to embrace the anima.  But this also shows that the speaker wants a sense of closeness and gender plays a big role in that.

"She is black and white. / Her mane falls wild on her forehead / And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear."  The funny thing here is the play of "light" being more of a tactile device and not a visual one.  Here the motivation of the speaker comes to a head, "That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist."  The sensation in which the speaker is able to hold both sides -- the light and the dark, the kindness perceived and the actual kindness.  Or rather a re-establishing of a connection -- no matter how metaphorical or real it is.  These lines make it seems the speaker has lost something before and regained "it" back.

"Suddenly I realize / That if I stepped out of my body I would break / into blossom."  One of the most famous endings in Poetry in my opinion.  This is the culmination of a philosophical slant, maybe a metaphorical one, which is against the literal.

The epiphany in the beginning of that quoted lines and note this is a very mental approach which leads to the separation of body and the "I" which can be seen as the soul or mind or perception or something not related to the body.  The break there indicates something a negative connotation, but then the last line shifts to a "blossoming" something that opens up.  Is it, in here, "the other" that needs to break open to blossom? Or rather, the approach mentally trumps the physical real.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Analysis of "Why I Am Not A Painter" by Frank O'Hara

Original poem reprinted online here: "Why I Am Not A Painter" by Frank O'Hara
Originally read: September 25, 2013
More information about the Poet: Frank O'Hara


This poem is hard to explain as a poem, but I think Robert Pinsky in his book the Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters sums this poem best as "freedom."

Now this isn't the poem which decides the debate on "what poetry is" with all the terms thrown like "rhyming" or "craft."  However, this poem is from the vantage point of a poet trying to create.

"I am not a painter, I am a poet. / Why? I think I would rather be / a painter, but I am not. Well," Here the speaker is being casual with the language and does set up a rhetorical question which states "why" he isn't a painter.  From the tone of the piece, there's a sense of a shrug, "well" and then the story goes.

And with the second stanza there's the introduction of the painter Mike Goldberg and the mention of the name shows that the poem is not going into a rhetorical dreamland of what a poet or painter should be -- no, it's more of let's talk to a painter and see why I am not a painter like him over drinks in the middle of the process.  They have a conversation about why SARDINES is in the painting -- "'Yes, I it needed something there"  unexplicable and unexplainable.  And a few days later the painting is finished SARDINES is gone "'It was too much,' Mike says"

Process, right?  That the process of being a painter is more about instinct, perhaps  -- things come and go based on what one thinks is right or wrong.

"But me?"  of course, the mind of a poet:

     [...] I am thinking of
     a color: orange.  I write a line
     about orange.  Pretty soon it is a
     whole page of words, not lines
     Then another page.  There should be
     so much more, not of orange.

Mindset -- connection of words, there is no erasure at this point only creating more and more, pages and pages, "It is even in / prose, I am a real poet."  Now here's the trick.  When the term poet is mentioned here, I don't trust it -- the line is as though the speaker is trying to insist that he is a poet.  But the last five lines bring a sense of ars poetica in the poem:

     [...] My poem
     is finished and I haven't mentioned
     orange yet, it's twelve poems, I call
     it ORANGES.  And one day in a gallery
     I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES

There's humor here since the idea of an ars poetica is dangled in front of the reader then taken away.  The "sense" I refer to is the end result is here for the rhetorical question -- poem called ORANGES and a painting called SARDINES.  But the only difference in process is that ORANGES had words, and SARDINES was done as a painting.

Should this poem be taken on a deeper level than that?  I guess.  I mean, the poem does bait a deeper meaning pretty hard, but maybe being a poet means just to write, not be tied down to the source material (SARDINES taken off then put back on, ORANGES not necessarily about orange no matter "how terrible orange is / and life"), and just go on to the next thing after done -- yup, freedom.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Analysis of "My Childhood" by Matthew Zapruder

Original poem reprinted online here: "My Childhood" by Matthew Zapruder
Originally read: September 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Matthew Zapruder


So Matthew Zapruder discusses how he came up with the poem, and the last two sentences sums up his creation process, "I guess I knew what I was writing about without knowing it, and the title just says it. The title plus poem felt personally inevitable, and out of my hands."

"Out of my hands" is a good allegory for this poem.  The poem is the speaker in the situation rather than being part of it, so the title, "My Childhood" which could be a very internal sentimental topic turns into a vivid observation.

"the orange ball arcs perfectly into the orange hop / making a sound like a drawer closing."  So why not "basketball"?  Well the addition of the color brings in a sense of blur which is against the simile of "drawer closing."  There's something not exact about the clearness of the images.

"you will never get to hold that" and the next line affirms the sentiment of the inability to "hold" (with it's duplicate connotations) the actual -- visual and sound, even though they are "clear."

"I am here and nothing terrible will ever happen"  This is mostly a tone line for me in which the speaker just brings up what he remembers about "my childhood"  also note the lack of punctuation to punctuate the stream-of-consciousness -- fluid thoughts, not necessarily connected but under the same topic.

"across the street the giant white house full of kids / turns the pages of an endless book"  The simile in the beginning blurs the precise, the metaphor here does the opposite.  The place is somewhat unclear, but the intent can be drawn out here -- life stories, life poems, life <insert text here> -- weirdly, I feel the poem is most sentimental here, but, at the same time, there's no emotional attachment from the speaker, just observation.

"The mother comes home and finds the child animal sleeping".  Past me wrote, "Child? Animal? Both?"  The observations have a tint of judgement based on wording, but nothing is concrete as  "I left my notebook beside the bed"

"the father came home and sat and quietly talked / one square of light on the wall waiting patiently"  here's another question.  Each line stand alone?  For me these two lines fit together because the sonic and the visual image ties in with the beginning image -- only in reverse.  "the father" is the second half of the simile "drawer closing" and the "one square of light" is like the "orange" image.  The senses are inverted, but still mean the same -- blurred.

"I will learn my multiplication tables / while the women in the old photograph looks in a different direction".  Distance.  Just like "the" father instead of "my" in childhood, here the separation is not only through time, but through direction and vision.  Yes, it's a photograph, but the focus is actually "different direction".

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Analysis of "University" by Karl Shapiro

Original poem reprinted online here: "University" by Karl Shapiro
Originally read: September 22, 2013
More information about the Poet: Karl Shapiro


Each stanza has three adjusted parts.  The first three lines four lines in the poem are left adjusted, then the next three lines are adjusted as though indented, and then the last line which is a couple spaces off from the previous three.

But this is the structure, what the poem does is attack structure "University" without holding back, especially the first line, "To hurt the Negro and avoid the Jew / Is the curriculum."  This is the academic side which butts up against incoming interpretations, "In mid - September / The entering boys, identified by hats / wander in a maze of mannered brick."  And what's the first thing of notice?  The curriculum?  The freshmen?

     Where boxwood and magnolia brood
     And columns with imperious stance
     Like rows of ante-bellum girls
        Eye them, outlanders.

Social anxiety.  Yes, the freshmen could be a comparative metaphor for the curriculum: new, interpreted, and somewhat eyed at -- they are both "outlanders" in some way.  But don't forget that the norm is related as a "feminine" construct, "ante-bellum girls."

The next stanza is more setting based, "In whited cells, on lawns equipped for peace, / Under the arch, and lofty banister, / Equals shake hands, unequals blankly pass;"  So this poem is a dreamland for Post-Colonial theorist.  Who has the power in this situation?  The "encompassing" campus reflects an inequality -- equals are cordial, unequals (the other) are ignored, right?  It's the trap since, "The exemplary weather whispers, 'quiet, quiet'" An uncontrollable outside source dictates (or at least asks) for silence for they to leave.

They?  " And visitors on tiptoe leave / for the raw North, the unfinished West"  something tells me this "University" is in the South-East with all the talk of "ante-bellum" and "negro" -- those that want more than silence leave while the other, "As the young, detecting an advantage / Practice a face."  Think of practicing a front.

So the focus is back on the youth, "When, on their separate hill, the colleges / Like manor houses of an older law" yes, let's pound on the archaic here again, "Gaze down embankments on a land in fee / The deans, dry spinsters over family plate,"  Two things here.  Past me stated to focus on "fee" and it's more of clever word play here, "land in fee" versus "land of the free."  Also note that "dry" is used in the verb and the adjective form.  The line by itself could reference how "deans" dry out "donors" (spinsters) or (the line extended further) how deans themselves have become spinsters who "Ring out the English name like coin"  Prestige, "Humor the snob and lure the lout / Within the precincts of this world / Poise is a club"  Poise here is looked at as a construct, and constructs can be personified.  Of course not necessarily literal -- but this is more of a set standard.

"But" of course a change, "on the neighboring range, misty and high, / The past is absolute"  This is some straight up  rhetoric which shows more of a "difference" -- "some luckless race / Dull with inbreeding and conformity / Wears out its heart, and comes barefoot and bad"  Now here's the question, how does these lines operate?  On one hand this commentary could be about the "visitors" those who leave conforming to the standard of "manifest destiny" or this line could be taken as a very sarcastic authorial intrusion.  The speaker does intrude through the rhetoric, granted.  But the rhetoric is more of a selling point -- "we are not the 'dull inbreeding with conformity' at our university we change" but don't move.

      For charity or jail.  The scholar
      Sanctions their obsolete disease;
      The gentlemen revolts with shame
         At his ancestor.

This part is tricky since the rhetoric above is slippery as far as tone and intonation is concerned.  Yes, here the plight of the scholar is a bit overblown, but the shaming of the ancestor is a powerful rhetorical piece which can refer to "critiquing" the past for personal gain (as some writers do *cough* this guy *cough) or shaming the past to illuminate failures -- but illumination doesn't necessarily mean enlightenment.

The last stanza plays with intent versus honor.  The focus is on the "true noblemen, once a democrat" whose "thought was shapely and whose dream was broad;"  At this point, please note the semi-colons used in this poem and how they are more used as a building device until this point, "This school he held his art and epitaph." Great, symbols and signs, how about his "dreams" and "thoughts"

     But now it takes from him his name,
     Falls open like a dishonest look,
     And shows us, rotted and endowed,
         Its senile pleasure.

So harsh to donors.  But what is here is the exposing of the symbol -- "University" as "rotted and endowed" with "its senile pleasure."  Not progression, but stuck in the past.

Anti-intellectualism? Probably the strongest poem, but not the strongest argument which is comprised of superficially changed texts, unwelcome foreigners, bleeding of alumni and donors and then honoring them with not good progress, but lies.  The conceit of the statements that they should be universally appropriated, and that depends on the reader on that. (I agree though).

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Analysis of "Door" by Peter Joseph Gloviczki

Original poem reprinted online here: "Door" by Peter Joseph Gloviczki
Originally read: September 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Peter Joseph Gloviczki



A poem to discuss stream-of-consciousness.  So the poem starts off with the image/idea of a "door" and then there's the opening with the conjunction "and" as though the title itself should be a complete thought.

      And what will the ricochet
      of my right ankle be worth
      when all the scalpeled men
      rearrange this bony puzzle
      in the window doubling

Here's the trick with the conjunction, the next phrase is more likely has to be taken as a whole.  So with this part of the shifts in image goes from the closeness of the ankle, then further with "scalpeled men" (note the instrument, not the men seems to stand out  more here), and then the idea of a "bony puzzle" as thought to go further into a fracture in a complete phrase.

The window doubling part seems to bring back the idea of a "house" with "door" but also amplifies the the closeness before letting go, "now, as a mirror: the person / I was before I kicked gravity / hard in the abdomen." Self-inflicted abuse?  I think it's more conceptual, but I don't know where this is pointing except for up.

     [...] Laugh,
     babe, that's what you told me
     on the night when I asked how
     I should answer those taller
     versions of yourself when they
     appear between the boundaries
   
Yes, I quote a longer portion of the poem (and there's only two lines left) because note the direction leading to the mouth with "laugh" and then the memory in the mind.  The "taller" versions of you might refer to the actual or the metaphorical -- I think this area is specifically hazy  because if it was too pointed the line of, "appear between the boundaries" would put too much emphasis on meaning rather than focus on the shifting topic of placement and places where one cannot leave (mind -- stream).

The last two lines are a quote in which the speaker somewhat detaches from the stream since it isn't the speaker's words, "when he said:  Put it here, / yes, that's it, now we are home".  Yes, the lines refer back to the "scalpeled men" in a sense, thus blurring the lines between construction in the form of wellness and art.  But what is home here?  A door? The construction?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Analysis of "Skunk Hour" by Robert Lowell

Original poem reprinted online here: "Skunk Hour" by Robert Lowell
Originally read: September 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Robert Lowell




Probably the most influential poem in the mid twentieth century. Overstatement, probably (I don't know the entire history of late 1950's - 1970's poetry -- well there's "Howl" which played more of a cultural impact...,but let me just continue).  Most influential in that this style of writing, Confessionalism, was recognized by critics and academia which, in turn, opened up recognition of other poetry styles.

So this is why many students have to (begrudgingly) write essays about this poem specifically.  And let's be honest, this poem is the anti-fun at least for the first half, and then confusing but momentum based in the last half.  Yes, I wrote probably five essays on this poem during my academic career (all of paling in comparison with the five thousand other essays about this poem), and here is another one.

The one thing I note in the first half of the poem is the setting and location: somewhere in the north east, and sometime past summer.  What the poem does in the beginning is start out in a third person mode -- more observation based, and more exposition based.  There are three characters described in the first half: an heiress, a "summer millionaire," and a "fairy."

So the first is the heiress, "Nautilus Islands' hermit" who "lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;" note the semi-colon here to act an immediate comparison here, "her sheep still graze above the sea."  Note how the sheep acts like a metaphor of distinction.  Not drowning, but still "above all things" and yett, "she's in her dotage." Someone living alone.

So the following line sums up the first stanza, "Thirsting for / the hierarchic privacy / of Queen Victoria's century,"  the importance here is not the verb (thirst) but the time frame (Queen Victoria's century)  and how privacy can be looked at as escapism.

The next three lines have a slight rhyme scheme, "she buys up all / the eyesores facing her shore, / and lets them fall" with "all" and "fall" -- this sense of a descent is on the surface, but the rhyme is also foreshadows the next person discussed, "the summer millionaire." (note the usage double -ll with the next stanza).

"The season's ill-- / we've lost our summer millionaire / who seemed to leap from an L.L. Bean"  Yes, the last word is "catalogue" but I didn't want to exapnd my quotes.  "Ill," "millionaire" and "L.L. Bean" all have the double -ll in it.  Why?  I don't know, but to me, this is the last vestige of hanging on to something similar -- even if it's the same letter drowned out sonically within itself.  And of course the visual language shows a certain type person being described, "his nine-knot yawl / was auctioned off to lobstermen. / A red fox stain covers Blue Hill." -- what's left behind is picked up back someone lower (lobstermen).

The last description is toward "our fairy."  Yes, the fairy could hit multiple references: a gay man, a whimsical person, or a figment (all can apply here) I think this stanza opens up for several types of criticism to be applied (Colonialism, Historicism, Deconstruction) -- whatever floats your boat.  Just note that the focus of color "orange," " his fishnet's filled with orange cork, / orange, his cobbler's bench and awl;"  bright, somewhat apparent colors, which hides intent, "there is no money in his work, / he'd rather marry."

This is the first half of the poem: people who are lost from the iconic to the prestigious to the lowly to the bright -- all of them lost internally in someway, but are remembered and are known externally.  This concept will apply to the second half of the poem.

The beginning of the second half of the poem starts out with setting, "One dark night, / my Tudor Ford climbed the hill's skull;"  note the usage of semi-colons throughout the poem and here the focus is the vehicle climbing on it's own up this hill (literal or metaphor whatever).  Then the inclusion of the "I" speaker becoming prominent, "I watched for love-cars.  Lights turned down / they lay together, hull to hull"  A sense of connection that the speaker notes not only here but also with the first half -- here the cat's out of the bag.  The speaker is the observer who continues to observe, "where the graveyard shelves on the town. . . ." then to himself, "My mind's not right."

"My mind's not right."  Yep, this is the line that opened up poetry.  So simple, right? There's probably similar things written everyday that is recognized as poetry.  But the distinction here is the blurred line between persona and personal, and observation and acknowledgment.  Was there lines like this in the mid twentieth century, absolutely.  But this line, I feel, went against the whole formalist/observational approach.  Here is the "raw" against the "cooked" (yes, read this article -- The Raw and the Cooked -- Robert Lowell's acceptance speech for his collection Life Studies in which this poem is in).

So from here on out the images seem more personal, "A car radio bleats, / 'Love, O careless Love. . . .' I hear"  Note that the speaker is experiencing more at this point, "my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell" again pay attention to the double consonants or vowels here as though they: sticking together as the sound drowns out the other (with exception of blood) "as if my hand were at its throat. . . ."

Then the line that alludes to Paradise Lost, " I myself am hell; nobody's here"  A little dramatic, but this is an admittance of how the speaker observes the self -- hell, why not?  And with nobody here (person) the next image of the skunks become highly metaphorical.

The skunks search, "in the moonlight for a bite to eat. / They march on their soles up Main Street: / white stripes, moonstruck eyes' red fire."  The further the actions are described, the more demonic they seem, but also with more purpose on location. "under the chalk-dry and spar spire / of the Trinitarian Church" is this line foreshadows a commentary on religion or perhaps the self, most likely.

It is the last stanza though where the metaphor of the skunks are given a solid purpose, but first the emphasis of observation from the speaker, "I stand on top / of our back steps and breath the rich air" then:

     a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail
     She jabs her wedge-head in a cup
     of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,
     and will not scare.

Here's the important part here, "cup of sour cream."  Seems innocuous, but that's what it supposed to do in the poem.  Gone are the high allusion, the people of the past, the music that bleats -- this plain language is meant to ground the scene in a sense of the real.

Also note that the focus is on the "mother" (yeah, there's a slight Oedipal thing going on here if you really want to go into it) skunk who guides her kin to eat, just like how something big that sticks in the mind descends to smaller things, "will not scare."  Either stands up for something good or bad.  So the skunk could be a metaphor for a thought, that thing that makes the mind not right, linger like a smell, but then note the emotional pull behind it "scare" -- what can scare a lingering thought?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Analysis of "A Grace" by Donald Hall

Original poem reprinted online here: "A Grace" by Donald Hall
Originally read: September 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Donald Hall


So the poem is structured as a prayer with two rhymed couplets and a tercet.  Each couplets serves different purpose: whether to strengthen a point or to counter a point.

"God, I know nothing, my sense is all nonsense / And fear of You begins intelligence:"  So these lines bring up an interesting rhetoric.  The second line does overpower the first though, intelligence brings fear (also a little pun on intelligent design), but the admittance of "knowing nothing" is mixed with the play of language of "sense is all nonsense."

"Does it end there?  For sexual love, for food, / For books and birch trees I claim gratitude."  Two thing, the construction of the sentence, and the use of the ambiguous pronoun.  The ambiguous pronoun sets up a continuation of "intelligence" -- a list that creates fear, but the list doesn't rely on intelligence (maybe books need intelligence) but, mostly, of nature.  The turn is the introduction of the subject of the line, "I claim gratitude."  Note, not God, but the speaker.

"But when I grieve over the unripe dead / My grief festers, corrupted into dread. / And I know nothing .  Give us our daily bread."  I guess my question would be if the end is cynical or not.  But I do believe the two lines before it are genuine.  The "unripe dead" is not something to know based on intelligence, and grief does fester.  I think it's me, as a reader, relating to the emotion on the line level.

And so the admittance, again, of knowing nothing with the emotional pull brings genuineness.  The last sentence undercuts the genuineness a bit with the allusion back to prayer since the first line played with the structure.  But this shows the poem as a rumination not only on a rhetorical level, but also a emotional one as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Analysis of "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith

Original poem reprinted online here: "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith
Originally read: September 20, 2013
More information about the Poet: Stevie Smith



The refrain of the poem, "Not Waving but Drowning" happens twice in this poem -- once at the end of the first stanza, and again on the end of the last stanza.  Why the refrain, well, I think it sets up this idea of waving -- going forward and going back.

What also adds this idea of going forward and going back is the endstopped stanzas which are pretty much self contained.

     Nobody heard him, the dead man,
     But still he lay moaning:
     I was much further out than you thought
     And not waving but drowning.

At this point the "drowning" is more literal in the sense, but the dead man lay moaning is an interpreted metaphor.  The speaker is placing he words in the dead man's mouth; however, the setting is observant with the speaker nothing "nobody heard him."

     Poor chap, he always loved larking
     And now he's dead
     It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way
     they said

Until the last line, the perspective seems based on the observations of the speaker so there's a tinge of the personal with, "poor chap," and a sense of empathy with the cause of death, "too cold for him his heart gave way."   But then the last line just reels in the coldness with "they said" a ubiquitous noun and so "they" don't know the man, and what is spread around is gossip.

     Oh, no no no , it was too cold always
     (Still the dead one lay moaning)
     I was much too far out all my life
     And not waving but drowning.

So the last line takes on a metaphorical stance, the mask niceties like waving creates that hide the drowning man who being "too far out all my life" didn't connect with anyone: speaker, they, up until the drowned man's death.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Analysis of "from Debths" by Susan Howe

Original poem reprinted online here: "from Debths" by Susan Howe
Originally read: September 19, 2013
More information about the Poet: Susan Howe


Humor within the metapoetics.  "A work of art is a world of signs, at least to the poet's nursery / bookshelf sheltered behind the artist's ear."  The images are surreal, but there's the somewhat set distinction between art, artist, and poet.  "I recall each little / motto howling its ins and outs to those of us who might as /well be on the moon illu illu illu"  The last part I don't understand, but the sense of connection keeps breaking since the language seems like they flow but the context doesn't flow back.

With the second part, it's the reverse, the context makes sense, but the language is broken up, "Antique Mirror / Etce ce Tera, Forgotn quiet all."  Then the commentary that doesn't allude to the past lines, "Nobody grows old and crafty / here in middle air together.  Long ago ice wraith foliage. / I had such fren"

The last line seems core to the poem and tells more of how to look at the poem (note not read), "Our mother of puddled images fading away into deep blue polymer. / Seaweed, nets, shells, fish, feathers."  How does context and language disappear in the mind?  Through fragments, through disconnections.  There are no "depths" in which the mind goes further down, but "debths" in which memory is saved, and time takes it's toll.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Analysis of "How to Make Love in the Garden of Good and Evil" by Lo Kwa Mei-en

Original poem reprinted online here: "How to Make Love in the Garden of Good and Evil" by Lo Kwa Mei-en
Originally read: September 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lo Kwa Mei-en



"To adaptations of the broken / heart" was the first line to pop out from reading this because the line doesn't come off cliche in the context of the poem.  Rather the line makes more logical sense since the beginning of the poem is a reinterpretation of the Adam and Eve (more focused on Eve) story.

"Your nimbus is pouring.  Your halo shows off from under my dress, / bird of light. Unwit cage."  Note the situational play especially with the last two statements in which the cage relates back to where the you's halo appears.  This is just stating there's something tongue and cheek going on here, "In a beginning there was a fruit & a noose / -shaped animal making a woman a woman. One man. I mean anima."  The biblical allusion with "In a beginning" sets up a definition of both man (anima - the subconscious inner "feminine," and the woman as woman (external).

But the line drops and takes away the anima from man, "gone: eureka, my skin is half amphibious wick, total flaming sword / & bared as the day he was born."  Within this line is emotion and such unique imagery to describe the loss of the secret feminine.  I think this point of view is from Eve and what comes to the surface is a something that can be burned and something on fire.  And the next line the poem goes risky with a cliche, "Now one man's trash is another's / pleasure & it pleases the first man, too."  Here the saying of "one man's trash is another man's treasure is taken as though trash is acceptable to the "first man" since the viewpoint is of treasure.  The speaker is sly with the word play.

The line break here "The angel reeks like a cellar / put to good use" the subduing of the angel set as commentary which expands with the entrance of the devil, "the devil climbs the stairs: the angel his hot blade / all over the dominant hand of oh god, pain, deliverer & profit, old / master hung on the bevel-licked starboard wall."  Okay, I'm taking this in a more perverse way than I probably should and I think it's due to the shift in pace where I see innuendo like, "hot blade /all over the dominant hand" and "oh, god, pain, deliverer & profit" Note that the angel is a "he" but the devil is unknown, also who is the one who just listing obscenities -- the devil or the angel?

But then there's the introduction of the "trinity" "You, ill logic in triplet, meet like three flit wings on the back / of a terrible bird.  Your dactyl reeling."  Note the poem is repeating itself and is introducing the third as a part of "a bird" (terrible or of light) and the pun of dactyl (reference to avian or a foot)  Then the line I referenced in the beginning, "To adaptations of the broken / heart."  It's the pun not the meaning that is built up here.  Just like the other "cliche" that changes the trajectory of this poem.  This "cliche" is then further defined by "As in: This can't be the first time / you've done this before, honey, & no one will mean for a horseman / riding hard for my teeth," The tone shifts to more of a personal yet cynical tone, and the hyperbole of the reference to the "horseman" kind of deflects the core of the "broken heart" (literal and physical) because the reference is overblown, but also the language facilitates the shift through the difficulty.

But note who is in control here, "On each, a woman of war / bathing." meanwhile, "Your body is choosing sides."

This idea isn't too hounded upon as the speaker's voice becomes stronger, it does something audacious, "In the beginning. There. I said let there be one beast / & it flew towards me as a holy bomb. & Adam was his own apple & / I unholy total babe of sweated light," based on the speed of the lines, there's a sense of anger here in which the speaker's voice wants to be audacious, wants to change the setting of it all, "I dream weapons / grow on trees.  I waked quivered in a stranger's mouth & oh you slip / back down the stairs."  With these lines there's probably a hundred interpretations of meanings, but what sticks out for me is how this feels like a summary of emotions from the beginning to this point -- the trifecta of anger, lust, and escape.

"I am for falling, lit bird.  The bees are with passion & I / use a word I'd never know.  The lilies of the vale are guilty, guilty."  Here the repetition like with "woman" stands out to me with me because of the definition going back to "lit" (the pun of light and literature) and the play with bird and bees where the play of language dilutes the condemning.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Analysis of "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams

Original poem reprinted online here: "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
Originally read: September 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Carlos Williams


Probably one of the most famous and the most analyzed poem from William Carlos Williams.  I'm sure, dear reader (or spambot) you can find better analysis than mine on the subject.  This is just a warning.

Every class in where we analyzed this poem, there were always snickers from the audience, "oh, you know what this means."  No, I don't.  "It's about sex."  Great.

Where in the poem should be the question:
 
     This is Just to Say

      I have eaten
      the plums
      that were in
      the icebox

Note the lack of punctuation here and also note how the title bleeds into the body.  The speaker admits on this sort of innocent theft to "the other."  Who, presumably his wife.  And stop right here.  Anytime someone says "presumably" this is more of an inference line than an implied line.  Note how the poem opens up to the reader's interpretation right away due to the apologetic tone and the innocent play here.  It's safe to infer something more when it's easy to read.

     and which
     you were probably
     saving
     for breakfast

Here's the important part here, the speaker then infers that the other was "saving [the plums] for breakfast" why is this important?  the speaker places himself as an observer her in this moment, and what he describes is straight forward but something further is implied.

     Forgive me
     they were delicious
     so sweet
     and so cold

It's in this description, which is so tactile and personal, where I think people think of sex.  I'm not so sure sex feels so cold though.  How about this.  Readers can infer a sexual connotation based on the descriptions which seem specific, but are general: "delicious" "sweet" and "cold" which could be for any situation.

War poem?  Sure -- plums represent landgrab.
Revenge poem? Why not?  He did eat the plumbs "rightfully" the other
90's after-school special poem?  I can make this argument too -- the lesson learned here kids is that always apologize for stealing something.

The description are that broad, but the trick is that the poem brings people back in to figure out more, or to see how the poem works.  Everything is about sex, as long as the reader can infer it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Analysis of "Decent Recipe for Tilapia" by Jillian Weise

Original poem reprinted online here: "Decent Recipe for Tilapia" by Jillian Weise
Originally read: September 17, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Jillian Weise


Written in tercets and, in the beginning, there's a distinct difference between two aspects in the beginning: a recipe and the idea of relationships forming.  During the progression of the poem, both are intertwined, and the question is why:

     Tell your back home friends it means nothing
     and you will drop him as soon as you have
     friends in the city.  If you had more friends,

     you would not sleep with him.

Here the focus is the idea of proof.  The speaker is reasoning on why too keep this guy, to have the power still.  He means nothing, at least, tell that to your friends.  Already there's a sense of a facade placed here -- that the reasoning have to be external to "sleep with him," or "If not him , / who would share your Tilapia? No beloved meal / begins, 'Alone before a plate of fish...'"  So, this kind of reasoning fits with the either/or proposition in which the latter is more important than the former.  Note the two loaded words here, "beloved" and "Alone" in which can be appropriated to the speaker and/or the meal.

"Find your market. 'Are you single?' the man / behind the counter asks.  What to think ? For meals you are inside a couple."  The dilemma starts with the third stanza.  Yes, there's the blend of a market as both dating and the dating scene.  It is the response, though, that is intriguing.  "Inside a couple" -- the reader is now has access to the internal.

"From inside the couple, you have someone / to call while standing in line. "Does your / girlfriend know?" you must never ask."  Oh damn.  There's a third party involved and it's a girlfriend.  Well sort of.  There's no indication of what the girlfriend represents in the poem (the "him" the speaker is currently sleeping with? the person who asks "are you single," and, perhaps, the speaker herself.", and I think this is purposely done to show the speaker has not title as well.   It's a shock value line that doesn't stay a shock line; rather a line based on lack of definition -- which brings a greater sense of tragedy.

"Instead, 'So many fish and which?' / The laws of attraction are this: There are no laws of attraction."  The tying in with the recipe goes along with the search, but note the distinct separation based on laws (colon - same definition) which the only law is there is no law.  Or to simplify, "A person likes / a person."  Note the individual attention shirks away the overall search.  That the speaker, on an individual personal basis, is defending.

"Both parties like each other / and each other enjoy being liked. / Baste the fish in lemon and butter."  Funnily, the key words are "lemon and butter" for me.  This shows more of a cohesion stated in the earlier two lines; however, the "fish" has added weight because of the use (connecting and disconnecting device).

"They say it takes time to meet people. / Do you agree?  Sleep with your friend. / Disagree? Cut him off. Put it in the oven."  The short questions makes the last stanza.  These questions aren't rhetorical in the sense that they aren't meant to be answered.  When the speaker answers them succinctly.  But note how the end refers to putting things in oven (maybe a pregnancy reference) which repeats the cycle.  Recipes, made step by step, tend to create the same results.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Analysis of "The Hole at the Bottom of the Pool" by Caroline Maun

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Hole at the Bottom of the Pool" by Caroline Maun 
Originally read: September 16, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Caroline Maun



The poem starts out with a linguistically playful line, "The pool was aquamarine serene;" which is then played upon with the surreal descriptions like, "sometimes it was also the belly / of a whale."  Furthermore, the interaction with the pool is play as well, "me / macro-poloing in that microcosm."  But within the first stanza there are little snippets of the serious, "voluntarily, temporarily blind." or "In that riot / it was impossible to square cause and effect."  Note that the application of the serious went from sort of fun prsonal to a rhetorical sort of question that feels like hindsight.  now what appears before the speaker:

     Even in stillness, the wind picked up
     a few waves and threw light
     on the white stucco. The screen was torn off
     by the tropical storm years before.

Note that this is description with no emotional tie.  Compare this description to what's afterward, "but the scaffolding still sectioned the sky into / intriguing cubes.  On a dime-store raft / I charted the course of clouds."  It's as if the speaker knows the danger of the past, but currently, the speaker's outlook is more in line with the play earlier stated.

And why?  Now, with the second stanza, there's a conjuring of a Noah-like allusion, "the wildlife that wandered in; / toads and small snakes / ruffled the quiet skin of the morning water."  and, once again, the images aren't judgment calls, but lines like, "let peace / reign again" and "Even the ones note rescued / were not a source of grief." doesn't add a metaphor to the image -- but rather the judgement is placed with the overall scene which is "the pool" -- which here is defined as full of play, turmoil, and animals, "If you have a pool, that's how it is."

Now the shift to the bottom of the pool, "To this space of nothing my thoughts / returned."  There's such a dramatic shift of tone here when the speaker refers to the bottom as more of the subconscious thoughts.  Past me noted the "philosophical" turn here. And also note the end where the first reference of "you,"  "you waited there for something / else to wield the net of rescue."  What's weird about these lines is how the linguistic play is in there with the sort of redundancy of "net of rescue" but it's mixed with a semi-serious accusation of stagnation. Who is the "you" waiting to be rescued?  To me, it seems like the you comes across self-referential because of all the observations, the lack of anyone else, and the surreal.  And although this can be set up as a fable because of these attributes, the moral reflects more of the speaker's internal need rather than an encompassing lesson. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Analysis of "Earlier" by Joanne Kyger

Original poem reprinted online here: "Earlier" by Joanne Kyger
Originally read: September 16, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Joanne Kyger


In the comments section for this poem, the first thing I read was "true story."  And I think the poem plays with idea with the idea of truth.  Note that this isn't necessarily a prose poem; rather, this poem plays with the idea of prose.

But the setting is set up first, "Into the party, with engraved invitations, I am bored when / I realize the champagne in the decrepit bowl is going to get / filled up a lot."  A never ending source of alcohol.causes boredom.  It's the action -- as though this happens far too often that comes up here.  So there's a juxtaposition between the spectacular being mundane.

"Well then, on the greens in front of the / Mansion are walking Tom Clark and Ted Berrigan, what chums!"  The cynicism with the "what chums" line is what gets me.  The speaker inserts herself into the scene through the authorial intrusion.  The actual names used brings a more personal feel to the poem.

"Do you think I could possibly fal in step, as they turn same / to far flung university on horizon, gleaming,  You bet your / life not."  The betrayal of the narrative.  The tone and the rhetorical questions refer back to how the speaker fits into this scene.  And then by addressing the reader, the narrative turn back to the reader as though to ask, "would you fit in?"

"The trouble, says Ted, with you Joanne, is that / you're note intelligent enough."  Observant, yes.  Intelligent, not shown in this poem.  Although referring back to the speaker and confirming that it is Joanne gives more power to Joanne than to Berrigan.  It's her observations, and it's her admitting the inability to fit in and the center of the poem.  The judgements of the reader and Berrigan seem but just a footnote.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Analysis of "Marriage" by William Carlos Williams

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Marriage" by William Carlos Williams
Originally read: September 14, 2013
More information about the Poet:  William Carlos William


I think this poem is set up as either an homage or a critique of Ezra Pound's famous poem "In a Station of the Metro".  In any case, this short poem works similar with the punctuation meaning more than the poem.

     So different, this man
     And this woman:
     A stream flowing
     In a field.

Now the first punctuation is the comma which puts the "difference" as the first thing to read forcing a sense of how to read the poem.  Difference.

Man and women.  Now the next punctuation is a colon which indicates the previous phrase is defined by the following image.

Then the question is who is the stream.  And who is the field?  I think this poem is tongue-in-cheek that way.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Analysis of "My Bright Aluminum Tumblers" by Michael Ryan

Original poem reprinted online here:  "My Bright Aluminum Tumblers" by Michael Ryan
Originally read: September 13, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Michael Ryan


There are two references to the phrase "who are you" in this poem in which the shift of ideas happen.  As I reread this poem, I kept wondering if the shift connects or disconnects.  Also I feel that the lack of punctuation

First though, "Who are you / long legged women / in my dream" automatically the  tone shifts to an erotic one, but note the speaker automatically places the other in a "dream" world. "kissing me open mouthed / pressing me for ice / we fetch together naked"  and in this dream world the actions don't have to make sense, but note the description of tactile sense with kiss, and ice -- the senses and the lust guide the speaker.

"from the freezer / with bright aluminum tumblers"  I didn't understand what an aluminum tumbler was, but here is a picture:


Note this is a search of just "aluminum tumblers"  the emphasis of bright overloads the senses from the reader and a speaker perspective, "red deep blue purple / icy water /so cold it hurts"  the spacing of the descriptors can either slow down or speed the poem depending how they are looked at.  If the descriptors do their job and describe, it's just based on color.  But note that without punctuation each word could be a phrase so that the "red, deep" can reflect more on the "cold that hurts"

"lips and teeth and membrane / lacy lattices of ice / shattering on our tongues"  note how the alliteration of "l" is emphasized to bring a smoothness to the sound, and then "the shattering" happens not only of the image, but also the tone.

"who are you" the second who are you which treads the line of connection and disconnect, "how could I have forgotten / my bright aluminum tumblers." and note this is where I question the connect and disconnect: the focus is on the items that is fathomable, "bright red tumblers" so does that mean that these become a symbol of the experience?

     I had to hold with both hands
     they couldn't be broken
     even if I dropped them
     that's how little I was

The sequence was close to being sentimental.  Holding onto something that can't be broken.  But the change of perspective saves the lines with "how little I was"  not because of it's logical that things dropped from such small heights don't break (but that's a part of it) -- the key word is "little" and the many interpretations that can come from it.  Since the poem was mostly in a dream sequence -- little could mean a variety of things dependent on how a reader wants to interpret the word: ego, size, age, connection, etc.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Analysis of "In Ripe Wilderness" by Bill Rasmovicz

Original poem reprinted online here:  "In Ripe Wilderness" by Bill Rasmovicz
Originally read: September 11, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Bill Rasmovicz


There's different things the speaker references and addresses in the poem: body, "you," self, speaker.  There is also mix of image, rhetoric, and tone which ties with shift of who is addressed.

"There is blood so red it is black, horns / that double back to pierce their fecund animal source."  With this opening sentence the speaker addresses a setting -- color shift to a darker shade and the word phrase of "double back" used for scene and a foreshadowing device.  The speaker addresses the Wilderness.

"Outside, workers dig a pit / exposing the infrastructure, the hairline fracture and rusted main."  Then the shift is not necessarily only people, but people in nature and it's a nod toward structure: "infrastructure," "hairline fracture" "rusted main.  Know that the descriptors are on the macro level.

"If you concentrate, can you feel yourself in / your sinuses, your spine?"  These lines, like the previous one, doesn't necessarily address the body, but individual descriptors asking the "you" if he or she could feel individual aspects.  The shift is slightly here -- however, the macro is the feel, while the micro is the individual parts.

"Made of alabaster the body would be lighter." Play on language -- color/weight.  A shift of focus in language continues.

"In ripe wilderness (and I remember this clearly) where a man / slices his finger in the field amidst / the hare's entrails & bloody mess certain greens"  Note that these three lines are more image centeric, also note that the line "In ripe wilderness" indicates that the previous lines reference the setting, now the speaker is describing withing (note the strength of the verb upcoming).

"emerge from other greens, truth / from THE TRUTH distinguishes itself."  High rhetoric here.  What is the difference between "truth" and "THE TRUTH"?

"Underfuckingestimated: the czarina in her brittle white coat, / loosestrife to propagate the tire tracks."  Note the hug shift in language and tone here.  The shift is on language.  Who is the speaker addressing here?  The tone of anger continues to build in obvious and subtle ways.

"Liquids heavier than water pool on the ocean floor / so that, while submerged, further submergence is possible." Rhetoric but note the only reference to liquid here is "blood" which could equate to "THE TRUTH" and note the violence of the language and the imagery has toned down.  But this image is separating two different ideas.  The submerged.

"Years a person could go on with the head / sub or even unconscious."  The motivation to go without a mind, "At 20 below the nose hairs freeze into icy little slivers" Language of preservation in the most violent images.

"Dear intimates of the past and present, sorry for not loving you / more. Sad sunset, your melancholy here." And emotional core is note the truth, rather the admittance of something personal, but look at how the language twists a bit to the cynical by making fun of the same emotion from a "you" perspective with "Your melancholy here."  This language, the focus on the micro, the violence comes to a head at the end stanza:

     Equip us with feathers, hollow out the bones until they become
     meager enough to float.
     A man ventures into the world with a jacket and keys
     and thinks that world his.

The key is "float" in the first sentence -- there's the expectation that from parts the whole can float.  But this idea is turned with the second sentence where the key word for me is "that"  the specificity of the world the speaker created and the idea of the man, only with simple things, could claim ownership,  Is this the truth.  Probably.




Saturday, April 5, 2014

Analysis of "Alone Looking at the Mountain" by Li Po

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Alone Looking at the Mountain" by Li Po
Originally read: September 11, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Li Po



This poem is based on perspective. And, yes, even though this poem is purely image based note the location of each line.

"All the birds have flown up and gone."  The location: the sky.  But the key here is flying up, a direction where the birds are gone.

"A lonely cloud floats leisurely by"  The key is the adjective and the adverb and how they juxtapose each other.  The lonely cloud has sentimental weight behind it but what does the cloud do?  Floats on leisurely.  It's not like that the emotional tie holds it back from moving.

"We never tire of looking at each other."  Here the speaker plays with the sense of togetherness and friendship.

And then this, "Only he mountain and I" I guess the big note is the placement -- land, but also note the comparison.


Even though the mountain is huge, the metaphorical form of the speaker's loneliness is butted up against a mountain.  Does this belittle the man?  Does this bring loneliness to a higher sense.  I don't know for sure.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Analysis of "Scythe" by Stuart Dybek

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Scythe" by Stuart Dybek
Originally read: September 10, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Stuart Dybek





The poem, in couplets, "rhyme" in the first three stanzas, then there's a slight visual connection (with words) in the fourth, and a lack of rhyme with the last three stanzas.  As the form changes, so does the purpose of images.

The first stanza is very direct, "In the barn demoted to garage, / the ax in a cherry stump can't be budged."  Note how visual the image is on the second line and how specific the image is and also the how it "can't be budged" kind of like the status of the "barn demoted to a garage."

"Daylight perforates siding despite / the battered armor of licence plates --"  Again, heavily image based lines in which a single twist of language "despite" changes the view of the images.  So does this mean that the light shouldn't be able to go through the license plates?  The image states the actual but there's always a hint of what the image cannot do.

"corroded colors, same state: decay, / their dates the only history" now we're getting into interpretation of the images after the colon.  But even before the colon, "corroded" has such strong implications of going downhill and then is confirmed with "decay" and then what remains?  Dates.

"of whoever tilled the soil / and left, as a welcome, the skull,"  here's when the rhyme scheme goes off and it's only a whisper of connection through the "l" but note the speaker identifies this place as somewhat abandoned and even impersonal with "whoever tilled."  The speaker announces a sense of discovery, and what's also here.

"of a possum nailed to the door, and the trail / of lime to the torn sack."  Here is the actual, concrete images.  There's a bit of the off-puting with the skull, but a foreshadowing of the natural "work" with the trail of lime to the torn sack.

"in a corner where cobwebs festoon a scythe. / Rusted sharp, it sings"  note with these lines the language changes slightly -- higher difficulty of language also the shift to the metaphor which implies the entire scene, according to the speaker, means more.

"when he grips its splintery handle, swings, / and crowns topple from Queen Anne's lace."  Note the verb tense of "grips" as though the actual is happening now.  However, the past tense, used in the fourth stanza, "whoever tilled" indicates a separation of time.  Where is the location of the poem -- in the now where the focus has been more towards setting.  But at the end it's the actions of this ambiguous "he" who is capable of making scythes sings, capable of toppling Queen Anne's lace.

Perhaps a bourgeois vs proletariat viewpoint?  It could be argued.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Analysis of "Garden" by H.D.

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Garden" by H.D.
Originally read: September 10, 2013
More information about the Poet:  H.D.


This poem is separated by two sections where the first is more of a dialogue, and the second mostly reminisces about a figment.

"You are clear / O rose, cut in rock, / hard as the descent of hail."  Past me noted, "the image 'hard' goes against natural convention.  Maybe design."  But also note that the focus of the image is "rose," which causes the juxtaposition on tactile expectation.

"I could scrape the colour / from the petals / like spilt dye from a rock."  this is the first mention of the "I" in the poem which desires to have a piece of the rose -- scrape indicates a harsh action, but also a last ditch effort action to keep something.

"If I could break you / I could break a tree."  The first line ine the couplet has a tinge of sentimentality because of the conceptual nature of "break" and the the specific of "you," but the line is saved with the comparative of breaking a tree -- the sentiment of the first line lingers though.

"If I could stir / I could break a tree -- / I could break you."  Past me wrote, "motive?" but note how the lines are inverted to have the sentiment of breaking you as the last sentiment in the first part.  That want is still there, but it's based on the actions or rather inaction of the speaker.  "If I could"  is a phrase repeated showing intent, but not action.

So where does the action go?

The start of part 2, "O wind, rend open the heat, / cut apart the heat, / rend it to tatters."  Look how violent the actions are here and how the speaker is still in the mode of asking, begging, wanting actions to happen.  And here the tactile imagery comes off again as heat -- something intangible, but felt.

But then there's the concern of the speaker with, "Fruit cannot drop . through this thick air,"  The importance of fruit here hasn't been explored up to this point.  Of course there could be allusions to famous fruit (apple of Eve especially as "Garden" in the title), but note how the air, this heat causes the restriction.

     Fruit cannot fall into heat
     that presses up and blunts
     the points of pears
     and rounds the grapes.
     Cut the heat--

Note the idea of construction here.  If things cannot fall, they are formed either mishaped (blunting the points of pears) or shaped (round the grapes).  The things become clear visually when the whole time the poem was more tactile.  And when things are formed clearly, they are more real, and I think this is what the speaker wants, "Cut the heat--"

"plought through it, / turning it on either side / of your path"  Past me stated the focus should be on "the garden."  But I think the rift causes a firm distinction between the fall or the form.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Analysis of "Time Study" by Marvin Bell

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Time Study" by Marvin Bell
Originally read: September 9, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Marvin Bell


How many times can the phrase "The coffee was cold so I said so" be reconfigured, and reworded?  For what purpose?  Who needs one.  Rather the poem plays with construction and the shifts of meaning doesn't mean anything expansive, but means more about the speaker.

So the list in the first stanza is:

  1. my coffee is cold and I said so
  2. I said I am glad my coffee is cold because I get to say so
  3. I said my coffee is cold like the Sahara at night
  4. I said the Sahara is a lot like my coffee, which has cream, and it is cold which means I have to say so or someone will say to drink my coffee, which is cold and the camels are asleep.
What expands upon with the variations is a metaphor that goes ahead, maybe too ahead.  And, yes, the humor because of the extension is humorous, but note that no matter how far the metaphor goes, the speaker is considering only the variation -- the riff on the same statement.

"Let's try it again" okay sure:

  1. I said, taking a sip of coffee, and then not taking a sip but still holding the cup and I said look at the cup and see if you can see the Sahara
  2. I said it was in there a moment ago but I took a sip and it is inside me I suppose
  3. I said then the same thing, my coffee is cold, and also,
  4. the coffee is cold to make sure they know which coffee, not coffee as coffee but coffee as part of the whole and also immediate in some sense, like waking in the desert.
The important thing to note is that the metaphor has stayed completely the same -- coffee, Sahara, cold -- but note how the speaker riffs on each action through repetition and variation.  With 1 & 2, there's more focus on the speaker and "you" (a constructed one) in trying to convince each other of what's going on with 3 being a "clearing of the phlegm) to 4 -- the overly wordy to be overly accurate about the same situation through the usage of "filler words."  When read, it's a waste of space technically, but if 4 was placed as a conversation, it would make sense.

Past me noted that this is the core rhetoric of the piece after the speaker states, "I write a lot about coffee, I said, and I said":

      I just need to see who my friends are, the ones
      who will stay till the end, and I added, I do not
      take death as a personal insult, and I said it was
      good to repeat things but not ideas, and I said
      it was good to repeat things

The "who my friends are / the ones who will stay till the end" is really disarming based on how much play the poem does

The rhetoric of repeating things and not ideas feels like an ars poetica line based on the construction of the piece; however, if the poem is to go expansive a lot of different ideas can flow in which the poem critiques is repetitive.    Also remember that repeat here is not defined by the dictionary definition, rather the speaker painstakingly shows repetition and variation.  "I said my coffee / is cold and I can say so and I said when I say / my coffee is cold it is part of something bigger"   

The last two lines is sort of a reinforcement of the idea, "that can last as long as I say it is, still is, and then / I said my coffee is still cold at this time, still is"  Here's the thing to note -- the placement of is and how the verb is placed at the end of each phrase.  It's the notion of existence at the end, still is.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Analysis of "Moon-Wrapped Fragrant Spareribs" by Kiki Petrosino

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Moon-Wrapped Fragrant Spareribs" by Kiki Petrosino
Originally read: September 8, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Kiki Petrosino


The focus is "the eater."  Now the eater could be innocuous as a presence who likes to eat.  But further into the poem, the eater gains attributes, gains power.

"Happy is the eater who rules by the cyclone of her face."  The metaphor is a bit humorous here since the images are over-exaggerated -- cyclone face.  But in the background of the image is the emotion of "happy"

"By the / syrup of her eye shall she drown the clanging earth."  Now with this line there's the mix of the body and the earth.  The lines are still a bit humorous, however the verb "drown" foreshadows a more serious sense.

"For the eater / combs justice like beeswax through her hair, & her hands catch only righteousness in their fiery mesh."  Note how each description adds to the physical description of the character through ability not physicality -- combing justice (like beeswax) through hair, catching righteousness with her hands, cyclone of the face.

"Therefore, lament neither the / appetite that dismasts your cities, nor the emerald in her gut / that spins."  This is the first mention of the you in the poem, a ubiquitous you. in which the appetite "dismasts" a city, but note the comparative of the city and the "emerald in her gut."  The surreal descriptions further distances the character from human into metaphor.

"I tell you, the eater is more terrible than all your needlework / of lemongrass, purer than aluminum the eater's hum at eventide."  Here is the first instance of the "I" being a part of the poem.  It's as thought the speaker is characterizing the "eater" to be more and more surreal as to purposely separate.

"Fear not her blue-black shadow as she cruises into your airspace."  The key is "fear" not so much the emotion, but to put a positive connotation on the unknown approach -- awe, perhaps?  Sublime?

"There's lightning in the matrix of her marrow.  Her teeth make / mirrors of the sea."  The first image I thought of at this point is Charybdis.  But probably not the allusion here.  Actually, probably no allusion here.  The focus is on the surreal, the nature, not in fear, but in awe in creating this female figure.  Note how all this is contained, but not destroying things.