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.


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