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.

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