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.

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