Monday, June 30, 2014

Analysis of "Lullaby with Bourbon" by George David Clark

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Lullaby with Bourbon" by George David Clark
Originally read: November 10, 2013
More information about the Poet: George David Clark



The language shows a differentiation between what is real and what is made to be fantastical.  This divide is further compounded with the adjusted lines, and the fact that each stanza is ten lines long to contain the divide.

The first stanza has a sense of motion because the poem opens up in the present, and also with a prepositional phrase, "Behind you lie a hundred yards of satin / paid out in a thin line" which should locate us, but rather dislocates.  There's just hundreds of yards of satin behind that, "trailed around the house in slinky corkscrews, / tangled in the ficus / like a kite."  This image dominates the setting, but note that this image is still behind, we don't know what is forward.  

Yet, when trying to get forward the poem goes for reasons expanding on the now, "Now your knees need rest, your eyelids. / Just sit a second, / Red Dress."  Now this is the first instant of a command from the speaker, "Just sit a second" as though the you is a very specific identity and now the reader is placed in the status of voyeur.  "Our guests are gone. Let's spool / the evening's ravel back / around you."  The language here is dreamlike in the sense that the now is going "behind" to the evening's "ravel" (situation and scene parallel to this).  Everything is coming together: tangling and enlightening all at once.

And here's the conceit that starts on the second stanza, "The hardest task for fantasists is clearly hosting realist"  stop here.  The speaker and the "you" identify themselves as fantasists; meanwhile, they are hosting something realist -- opposites, yes, but in what way?  To me, the definition of both unravels as the poem continues with contrasts like, "pairing romance / with meatloaf on a budget of nothing, playing wit / and waitress."  Yes, these images are together; however, the images are so disparate (wit and waitress) that they seem more situational or rather situational enough to change easily through.

     [...] Your grace could make 
          a hospital hospitable.
     but while others convalesce.  you worry at some flaw.
           Even now you hold
     the bourbon like a handrail.  Red Dress, it's designed
          to let you fall

So the "you" becomes more prominent in the second stanza.  The speaker has given the you the appositive of "Red Dress" and now the you becomes a symbol more than a person.  But up to this point, the speaker breaks down the you with a shot of the you's hospitality, worries, and need for the drink -- whisky in the first part, bourbon on the second.  And each mention of alcohol adds a level to the Red Dress, an extended crutch.

However, the speaker lays off the Red Dress and goes towards the design aspect -- the artifice, "this room where the glitz is kitsch, / let's slide off / our seats like dolls."  And then there's the difference between "porcelain" and ""fabulous outfit, one stylish / even wrinkled."  Yes, these two are a set, but notice the attention to detail on the "outfit" rather than the dolls.  Note that the dolls have a set appearance; meanwhile, the outfit could be anything: 

     And if Saturday's not washed and pressed for us 
          like laundry, 
     let's let it come without that pomp 
          and starch.

It's a mood change, the Red Dress and the speaker are "we" again.  This sort of emotional roller coasted is, again, mimicked with the form, but with the focus on the clothing -- the weight comes to the dynamic features of clothes versus the static appearance of porcelain.

The last stanza has two invitations in it.  The first is to "lie down the way / a caravan of camels / hauling bolts of velvet through the jostled night"  this is the fantasists talk versus the second invitation, "to be bright / and poor and young" this is more of the realist talk.

But there's no depth beyond this point -- only the accusatory talk of the Red Dress which reflects back to the speaker who want, "invite me / to kiss you / with your eyes closed."  This idea of dominance.  This idea of definition of both fantasists and realists defined by the speaker through the lens of the Red Dress while the Red Dress has nothing, but "the taste of Kentucky on your [her] tongue"
     

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Analysis of "Tabula Rasa" by Matthew Wimberley

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Tabula Rasa" by Matthew Wimberley
Originally read: November 8, 2013
More information about the Poet: Matthew Wimberley


Tabula Rasa -- Blank Slate

Once understanding the title, then the whole poem unfolds.  The only thing I don't know is why the use of Latin?  Or maybe if the title was "Blank Slate" then there would be too much emotional weight which would overly foreshadow the poem.

In any case, the title plays into the first part of the poem, an exposition:

     He still remembers how to move
     sandpaper with the wood grain,
     push back years of weariness
     and start again.

This is the introduction of the other and note that the first line has to deal with "remembering"; also note that since the beginning is a blank slate, the exposition focuses on what the other remembers, which then leads to what the other forgets which is:

     [...]I watch
     him strip away lacquer, deep maple
     colored jelly pushed off of edges
     and pooled on the floor.

The "I" speaker.  I think at this point the foreshadowing of the poem comes to a close, so what's left to uncover?  It's not that the speaker exists, rather the process the "he does" and the speaker writes about.

From the encyclopedic, "The smell / of chemicals eating at paint," which expands into the simile, "the surface looks like chalk dust / or the shoulder blade of some extinct mammal / in a museum"  The images and flow lead to this idea of the "he" uncovering something "like a paleontologist pushing / dirt in the badlands" which adds a sense of irony to the piece as what he uncovers is forgotten.

Meanwhile, what the speaker uncovers is the history of the "he" -- "His own bones ready / for the earth.  Hips replaced.  Knees rebuilt. Man / made heart."  Note that when the speaker intrudes about the he there's a terseness behind the body.  Short sentences as though to just state a fact out of frustration which culminates to these lines.

     [...] he lets the polyurethane gives itself
     to the wood and looks over to me.
     Who are you? I give my best fake smile until he
     sighs and goes back to work,

Pretty plain language for a complex emotions going on.  This is the strength of the poem.  That there's complex language when discussing clearing the wood by describing the process and "polyurethane" but when the language goes to an "actual" connection, one side doesn't understand, while the other knows too much., "Eighty-six years don't / disappear all at once."  A bit sentimental, but I feel this is earned (sort of -- my gauge for sentimentality is a little sensitive).

And irony comes at the end, "Brushes / washed and put away, so only the table remains."  Tabula Rasa -- an empty table that is finished by the father who remembers to finish, but not the speaker (presumably the son).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Analysis of "Ace" by Cally Conan-Davis

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Ace" by Cally Conan-Davis
Originally read: November 7, 2013
More information about the Poet: Cally Conan-Davis



So the poem starts with an expletive, "Bloody hell, the worlds turned / upside down".  The poem plays with the idea of hell, but also what it means to be "upside down."

For example, "The flame tree has become / geranium"  This is not the literal upside down, but the switch of power and expectation.  The flame tree, for me, referenced the burning bush, but looking it up now, the flaming tree is an actual tree.



So there's a play with scope and size, but also of allusions as well.  Or I might be looking at the poem too intently.  In any case the couplets here continue to play with "upside down."

"my coral bed has grown / into a tree"  from sea to land, "the humming bird you hammered / to the wall"  from the freedom of flight to being tied down in which "through tin, could any moment / turn and flee."  note this stanza ends with a period, so everything before it is more so a definition of "upside down."

Meanwhile, these lines feel more like after effects: Colors to shape, "The yellow sky has gone / all roundabout" and, again, land to sea, "and clover threes where / seaweed used to be"

So there's a sense of the upside down going downside up and vice versa -- nothing is truly stagnant, but the observations grow wider:

     and blood blossoms with fire
     the powers below grow higher --
     if things turn right-way-up
     will the falling fire stop?

Now here's the trick for me in this poem.  Since there's no standing on what "below" signifies, what does "below" mean.  There could be a meaning of "hell," but if we're still in the upside down landscape, wouldn't that be "heaven" -- in either case something is "falling" and not "rising"  -- a descent is going on.  Also, the biblical reference is not mentioned, but there's heavy implications that the poem could allude to bible.

     The wave is in the hill
     the nest abandons me
     and all the reddened earth is still

     igniting

However, what is in the middle is always earth, right?  No matter what side is flipped there's got to be something in the middle.  I think key to this poem is how the speaker interacts with the shifts, "the nest abandons me"  and here this shows a sense of loss -- close and personal.  Whatever nest represents could be anything (family, home, personal stuff), but the overview setting, the reddened earth, is still igniting.

And here's the other half of it.  What does igniting meant to this poem?  Violence?  Cleansing?  Both?  Lighting up?  obscuring?  How about these two as well?

The images are powerful, but the direction isn't there from the speaker, rather the implications have to be taken to account.  This poem could easily be a war poem, or a environmentalist poem.  A poem about relationships, or a poem about the divine.  This poem may be too broad.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Analysis of "To Be Elsewhere" by Hsia Yü

Original poem reprinted online here:  "To Be Elsewhere" by Hsia Yü
Originally read: November 6, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hsia Yü


Translations.  A part of me wants to read the original text, but then again, I don't know "The Chinese" (as Poetry Foundation states this translation is from).  The poem itself deals with something missing, but I, as a reader, feel like I'm missing something in here as well.

The first few lines detail out a tryst, "We met in a coastal village / spent a lovely night without leaving an address / going separate ways"  I think the key with the opening line is the idea of a "coastal" village in a more thematic sense -- this sort of bridge between sea and the land which parallels both the speaker's and the other's ebb away from each other.

Then the flow, "Three years later / we meet again by coincidence."  This language is straight to the point -- there's not emotional tie in here, just a statement.  But I think this is purposeful to build up a narrative, "The whole / three years spun a novel / we abandoned:"  Well, not necessarily a narrative but a phantom narrative.

This is where I feel I'm missing something -- and it's with the colon in this section.  Theoretically, the colon opens up a definition of "a novel we abandoned."  So these lines, "They fail to recognize themselves / as though meeting in another story / for an encounter"  The lines feels like a definition of the other novel, but I feel I'm missing a word here or an idea.  I can't pinpoint it.

In any case, the idea here is cyclical to the beginning -- a tryst and then another tryst but the variable inserted in to this equation is "failing to recognize themselves."  There's an implication that the current story there's a sense of recognition.  But now that we are in the realm of a cycle, presumably, the dialogue below could have happened at the beginning:

     One asks: Who are you, so cold and weary
     The other says:  I only know a thread is loose on my sweater
          The more you pull it, the more it lengthens
          until I completely vanish.

Aside from my mind going towards Weezer's "Undone -- The Sweater Song" there's a parallel idea with a huge differentiation.

In this version, the loosening of the sweater (or clothes) leads to the speaker vanishing versus the idea of an implied tryst in the beginning.  And what does the speaker see in the other?

The other observes the speaker as "cold and weary."  Pointed visual questioning, but nothing else, while the speaker is undone.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Analysis of "Three Things to Remember" by William Blake

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Three Things to Remember" by William Blake
Originally read: November 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Blake 


The conceit with this poem is in the title, "Three Things to Remember."  So there's already a didactic effect going on here.  However, each couplet goes with a similar formula -- bird / effect.



"A Robin Redbreasted in a cage / Puts all Heaven in a rage."  Here the speaker automatically takes a prophetic stance and can tell the reaction of the divine.  Keeping a Robin Redbreasted in a cage, puts Heaven in a rage -- yet it's sort of an impotent Heaven.  Yes, there's rage, but what is the action from the divine.

Furthermore, the Robin Redbreasted could be an allusion to the nursery rhyme "Little Robin Redbreast"  which adds a sense of metapoetics to the poem -- don't try to cage a poem like a bird.


"A skylark wounded on the wing / Doth make a cherub cease to sing"  By itself, the theme of injuring or caging animals lead to a divine disgust.  Action is taken, the cherub doesn't sing.

However, the allusion to the famous poem "To A Skylark" by Percy Shelley where, at the end of that poem, the Skylark sings and flies higher.  Now with this poem, the skylark is wounded and parallels a cherub -- both cease to sing (if the allusion stands).  



"He who shall hurt the little wren / Shall never beloved by men"

I want to see the literary allusion to little wren, but I don't know what it would allude to.  A cursory Google search leads to Wordsworth, "A Wren's Nest" which is actually plausible.  As I'm reading that poem, I notice a lot of observation and care for young, and also the wren is referred to as a woman.  So, this could be an metaphor on top of a metaphor.

"If a man hurts a little wren [woman, poem] / Shall never beloved [respect, cared for] by men."

Note the lack of divine and reference to men.  The immediacy of disgust is there.  Not only is the divine going to be upset, and not be able to sing, but men would be disgusted.

Now here's the question I have at the end of this.  Is the speaker attacking those who use the images of birds in their poems, or defending them against those who don't understand the usage of the images?  Maybe it could be both -- but it's such contrasting readings.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Analysis of "Incident" by Countee Cullen

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Incident" by Countee Cullen
Originally read: November 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Countee Cullen


So this is a narrative poem with a xbxb rhyme scheme.  Something is lost along the way, and something is gained.  The three quatrains are formed as a beginning - middle - end.

Beginning:

     Once riding in old Baltimore,
     Heart-filled, head-filled with glee.
     I saw a Baltimorean
     Keep looking straight at me

With this stanza there's a clear distinction of the "visitor" and that's the speaker.  Note the emphasis on "glee" as though to pronounce a sense of innocence.  Then the introduction of the "Baltimorean"  as a "native" that stares at the speaker.  Note how the "Baltimorean" acts while the speaker thinks.

Middle:

     Now I was eight and very small,
     And he was no whit bigger,
     And so I smiled, but he poked out
     His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger'

So the first two lines deal with age and size.  While the speaker clarifies his age and size at the time, the speaker doesn't clarify the age of the "Baltimorean" rather the attention to size -- no size bigger (well it rhymes).  The focus is on the "size" of the other and there's an equality here.  The age, again, reinforces a sense of youthful innocence.

When the "Baltimorean" makes fun of the young speaker and calls him a nigger, note the difference of set up -- a smile versus a racial remark.  It's not about the "Baltimorean" in a characterization sense at this point, it's how the "incident" created the character within the speaker.

End?:

     I saw the whole Baltimore
     Form May until December,
     Of all the things that happened there
     That's all that I remember.

This incident takes over the memory of the speaker.  The incident was something remembered.  There's an implied confusion on how to respond -- there's no tone of anger, or hatred, pity or fear, just the incident.  The incident didn't ruin the trip, but it was the trip.  Something that stuck with the speaker.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Analysis of "Universe in the Key of Matryoshka" by Ronnie K. Stephens

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Universe in the Key of Matryoshka" by Ronnie K. Stephens
Originally read: November 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ronnie K. Stephens





This is a cumulative poem in which the anaphora of "I opened" acts like a Matryoshka doll as seen above.  However, does the first topic discussed encompass everything inside the poem, or does the speaker play mostly with the idea of "opening" up something similar but different.

I'm not sure after reading the poem a couple of times.  I'm more likely to say neither.  Here's the list:


  1. "Letter" to "bachelor's degree"
  2. "bachelor's degree" to "one hundred thirty thousand unpaid minutes"
  3. "one hundred thirty thousand unpaid minutes" to "a house I will never own"
  4. "a house I will never own" to "two years in rural Japan"
  5. "two years in rural Japan" to "better credit better interest rates better understanding"
  6. "better credit better interest rates better understanding" to "one point five children in the backyard"
  7. "one point five children in the backyard" to "my wife"
  8. "my wife" to "my wife"
  9. "my wife" to "my wife"

There's two important things I'm not acknowledging with this list though.  One, the form of the poem of a block with "/" separating each line instead of a period.  This is important to note since the ideas are meant to be continuous -- connected, not so much, continuous as a sequence.  Second, the cumulative effect of "I opened" sort of changes tone based on what is opened -- a slightly more cynical tone with "a house I will never own," then a more endearing and/or desperate tone with "my wife."

Now what does this list show?  A life? Yes there's a chronological sequence here that could make sense from one way to the other, but does the events come from "a letter" -- probably.

How about more of a cumulative effect to bring a sense of importance to the wife aspect.  Another wife?  Or finding out more about a "wife" after unpacking so much that the core of this speaker's life is a "wife" (multiple or single).  Maybe.  

I think what I'm getting at is that when unpacking a matryoshka, there's a set system: something inside, smaller than before, until the list runs out.  This poem does play with the idea and there's multiple unpacking reasons to gain from the form.  Narrative justification of a life.  The praise of a wife at the core of an unpacked life -- both, but is there anything more?  The system is set, what else is at the end when it can't be unpacked anymore.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Analysis of "The Fable" by Yvor Winters

Original poem reprinted online here:  "The Fable" by Yvor Winters
Originally read: November 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Yvor Winters



The use of adjectives in this poem stands out for me, even from the first line, "Beyond the steady rock the steady sea" the adjectives don't add much to the image, but a lot to the line -- a forced alliteration, the redundancy of "steady" affirming the scene, but this is supported  by the next line of "In movement more immovable than station."  The juxtaposition and play of language with "move" and "immovable" brings a push and pull with the poem.  Affirmation of both same and different language.

"Gathers and washes and is gone.  It comes / A slow obscure metonymy of motion"  What does it mean in this poem?  Note how there are two descriptors of it -- the physical (steady, movable/immovable, gather and washes) and the language (metonymy).  So metonymy is a key word in which it is now confirmed that the  "it" is more representational on both the physical and language plains.  What does it mean though?

Not answered with the next four lines, but expanded upon:

     Crumbling the inner barriers of the brain
     But the crossed rock braces the hills and makes
     A steady quiet of the steady music,
     Massive with peace

The first line, "Crumbling the inner barriers of the brain" seems so against this poem image wise, but feels right in a flow sense.  If talking about language, then then the "it" takes down barriers -- language always seeps in, however how an individual takes the language "steady quiet of steady music" is a sense of forced stabilization.  The mind makes peace of anything it braces.

The drop down line brings in a sense of the speaker trying to reasons why "it" is with, "And listen, now:"

These are the actual sounds and scenes, "The foam receding down the sand silvers / Between the grains, thin, pure as virgin words, / Lending a sheen to Nothing, whispering."  These are very heady concepts and images.  Foam?  words?

Here's my take, note the downward momentum of the images (receding) goes down to the core -- the sand, the "virgin" words.  Something not looked upon, but what does this mean?  Nothing.

"It" is "nothing."  The further and further down the poem goes to the language and image level, there is nothing there.  This nothing breaks the mind.   This nothing forces a stabilization.  Yet, nothing whispers.  Note not saying something, but breathing out something.

This feels like a criticism to Hart Crane's style.  Can someone tell me if I'm in the right direction, or just plain wrong.  K thanks.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Analysis of "Memorial" by Sebastian Agudelo

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Memorial" by Sebastian Agudelo
Originally read: November 1, 2013
More information about the Poet: Sebastian Agudelo


This poem is kind of like a sound wave.  And motion expands, and then the silence brings it back down.  The question here is what expands and how far.

The poem is mostly stream of consciousness with the opening part being "A damp season,"  Which seems big, but becomes bigger with the idea of "they'll seem like fungal spread on posts."  And what is they? " less posting, yard sale, lost cat, runaway"  it's the idea that expands off the single post.  Yes, the post has "cover the thick / of staples left"  But remember that the first image is of the season, then condensed down to the staples of the post, and then to the flyers.  All this is illusion since "they" hasn't been realized yet.

"Lately, mind you, / a bit more desperate, more out of work, less / high tech, signs folks scribble offering to do."  Then from the idea of flyers, there's an idea of classifieds, looking the theme here to attain what, "odd jobs, junk pick-ups, garden work, my favorite / rides to prison."  Note that nothing has been specified in the classifieds as far as the poem goes.  "They" is an unclear concept but everything around it is being described with a good amount of detail.

"Who needs a headline or speech / when state of the union is rigged-jobbed to the creosote soaked poles on every corner?"  So this is the rhetorical questions that marks the change in the poem.  How?  Well, the change in style is the most obvious point (from lucid description to rhetorical question"  But the line is sort of ironic by announcing the change when, in the context of the poem, the line seems to chastise the ability to make announcements that cannot fade -- since the only thing that stands is the poles and not the flyers.

Then the tone gets a bit more angry, hostile, "Americans Must Morn, Make-do, this one / says while the Times and Couriers elsewhere / sugarcoat what's fit to print."  A more direct attack of how there's a partition of what's news or not -- where the speaker feels that anything with Times and Couriers sugar coat what's fit to print.  But note how the speaker just becomes more accusatory and less image based.  And now the tone is the driving force of the poem.

Here's the core, "they are, the piles of plush animals / meant to grieve the seventeen year old shot down"  There seems to be an implication that this is not news, but the main news in the poem.  This sort of duplicity of tone and emotion creates a greater impact of emotion to this line and so when the like of plush animals goes pm for six lines from the more pop referenced "Sponge bob wire-tied above, Daffy"  to the more generic" plush teddies, lucky dogs" the list feels like a poem within a poem with mimicked styles -- specific that expands outward to the generic, then back to the specific -- the specific in this case is the after effect of said animals.

"every creeping / thing of the earth after his kind, it seems, left / to tuft and mildew after rain, blanch in the sun."  What saves this line as being either too sentimental or too didactic is that the subject, the they, in the poem isn't introduced until late in the poem -- the memorial of the person based from teddy bears.  The angry tone also saves the line -- there's a sense of injustice but not stated.  This sense comes from the usage of images "mildew" and "blanch."  Of course, these are inferred ideas on my end, but the images and the technique comes off strong to critique the idea of headlines, death, and memory.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Analysis of "October nor'easter" by Marge Piercy

Original poem reprinted online here:  "October nor'easter" by Marge Piercy
Originally read: October 31, 2013
More information about the Poet: Marge Piercy


After rereading this poem, I'm not too sure why I picked it.  There's techniques in here which make this poem a little too over the top for me, but maybe that's why I picked this poem.  I want to explore why this poem didn't work out for me.

The first stanza has hard language like "rip" and "scimitars" and "flung."  The beginning describes nature as something hardened, "Leaves rip from the trees / still green as rain scuds"  which then centers back tot he speaker, "as granite pebbles flung / in my face."

The immediate follow-up has to deal with the speaker, "Sometimes my days are torn / from the calendar."  So at this point, I'm thinking, is this comparison worthwhile -- the violent nature as time passes by.  These aspect seems so polar to me so when the simile comes, "like leaves too fresh / still to fall littering / sodden on the bricks"  the references to how leaves are violent then new becomes so jarring that I'm not sure why the poem is doing this.  Is this polarization earned through diction or scenario?  To me, it's just there.

The third stanza ups the ante "But I have had them -- torrents of days" and past me "Days?"  And the stanza goes self analytical with, "Who / am I to complain they / shorten."  But...you are complaining. And then the speaker then admits to using the days "hard, wore them out / and down, grabbed /at what chance offered."  Yes they are short but used well.  The philosophy behind the lines stand, but the images and verb to convey them are overly dramatic to me.

Then the last stanza goes surreal to the point of the absurd to me:

   If I stand stripped
   and bare, my bones
   still shine like opals
   where love rubbed sweetly,
   hard, against them.

I don't think this epiphany is earned, this is flaunted out as an image to end the poem and that's it.  With the overdramatic language presented previously, I can't take these lines seriously enough to envision the "love rubbed sweetly" to create "bones / still shine like opals" -- not only in the image way but also in flow sense, unless the flow is to be as absurd and overdramatic as possible.

But this poem strikes me as a sincere lament about losing days, losing time -- the execution of the poem though, just not for me I guess.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Analysis of "A Conceit" by Rae Armantrout

Original poem reprinted online here:  "A Conceit" by Rae Armantrout
Originally read: October 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Rae Armantrout


I looked up all the definitions of conceit before reading this poem.  I've read and analyzed quite a few Rae Armantrout poems over the past year, and I always noticed in her work the way she uses multiple definitions of the word, but in a simple backdrop situation so, theoretically, the scene  defines the word in an interesting way.

Note that this poem is separated in three parts in which each section uses a different technique: narrative, lyric, definition.

Narrative:

This portion flows between a conversation between two anchors about how "viewers might enjoy tomorrow."  This is the conceit, fanciful notion device that opens up the idea for the anchor, but . "One says, 'Get some great....', but / that seems a stretch."  Who is judging this aspect?

It seems to be the other who "snickers, meaning, / 'Where were you going with that?'"  and then this idea transfers over to the "you," "like you thought."

Lyric:

The "you" here can be different or the same you in the first part, but this part definitely brings conceit into the poem:

     Like you could defend
     vanity

     in the sense of idle
     conceit

Pride in oneself, conceited.  Here the word is used two ways: the overinflation of a persons ability to "defend vanity" and the description of vanity itself, "vacuous self-absorption.

The last lines in this part are humorous, "whatever / because, / really." Since there is no defense, just a group of words as a defense.

Definition:

     As if to say,

     "Conceit
     is the vacuum energy"

The second part goes along with how the word/idea of "conceit" is used in the poem -- vacuous vacuum that has energy in itself.  The thing that stands out for me is "As if to say,"  to undercut the definition with a qualifier.  Why qualify?  Maybe the line goes back to the you defining the word  Maybe the line is part of a different section.  Inexact stance on an exact definition.

  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Analysis of "A Long Dress" By Gertrude Stein

Original poem reprinted online here:  "A Long Dress" By Gertrude Stein
Originally read: October 30, 2013
More information about the Poet: Gertrude Stein

Cinquains.  The first stanza of the poem feels more of discussion on process, and the second stanza discusses more of the output of the process.

In the first stanza, the word, "current" is punned upon many times in order to show the flow and question it:

     There is the current that makes machinery,
     that makes it crackle
     what is the current that presents a long line and a necessary waist
     What is this current
     What is the wind, what is it.

Note the use of current that creates objects (machinery) and sound (crackle).  And from this the production is a "long line" (which the line itself is a pun) and a "necessary waist."  I think the key here is how the rhetorical questions work in this stanza.

The lines question what current is then proceeds to question what wind is.  Note, that this doesn't necessarily correlate, quite the opposite.  The speaker is taking a stance in such a short poem to differentiate between two ideas.  Also note that the questions aren't really questions syntactically, rather they are statements.

The second stanza of the poem plays more with color than language -- some don't add up though:

     Where is the serene length,
     It is there and a dark place is not a dark place,
     only a white and red are black, only a yellow and green are blue
     a pink is scarlet, a bow is every color.  A line distinguishes it.
     A line just distinguishes it.

For me, the "serene length" refers to the length of the "line" whatever line represents.  Furthermore, the line referring to "a dark place" is not a dark place deals more with interpretation -- reference versus color in which the speaker discusses color and how the mixture of colors in line three can create different colors white and red due to saturation, and yellow and green due to how the color is mixed.  In line 4, the single colors are redefined -- pink is scarlet.  Furthermore, the product like a bow can be every color.

This "line" distinguishes it -- even through another repetition and a line break.  How?  The line defines the distinction, probably.  Whatever line means (could mean line drawn in the sand, poetic line, arbitrary line, glass ceiling, etc.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Analysis of "Elegy" by Vijay Seshadri

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Elegy" by Vijay Seshadri
Originally read: October 29, 2013
More information about the Poet: Vijay Seshadri



Outside in, inside out.  The poem plays with perspective while maintaining the first person.  The first person is important here because this is someone noticing something rather than the scene being described in general.

"I've been asked to instruct you about the town you've gone to, / where I've never been."  With these lines, the speaker sets up the premise.  Already the introduced dimensions in which the speaker is the "instructor" but hasn't experienced the same thing the other has.  It all seems like study and then saying what has been studied to the other.

     The cathedral is worth looking at
     but the streets are narrow, uneven, and a little grim.
     The river is sluggish in the summer and muddy in the spring.
     The cottage industries are obsolete.
     The population numbers one.

Here are descriptions of the place in which the descriptors get bigger than bigger: cathedral, street, river, cottage industry, but the judgment calls less judgmental: worth, narrow, uneven, little grim, sluggish, muddy, obsolete.  In this way, the poem at this moment hinges on going in two different directions at once while still being relevant.  There's no time for further details within each line because the last line narrows down the focus to the one which correlates to the "town you've gone to."

"The population numbers one fugitive"  And here the other can be seen as one running away to this place and here's the description of the one, "who slips into the shadows and haunts the belfries," something ghost like, a little campy here with "haunts the belfries" but the supernatural is talked about here and then further expanded upon.

     His half -eaten meals are cold on the empty cafe tables
     His page of unsolved equations is blowing down the cobblestones
     His death was so unjust that he can't forgive himself.
     He waits for his life to catch up to him.

And just like the first stanza, there is a cumulative effect, but this time of something missing: half-eaten, empty, unsolved, unjust.  There's something missing according to the speaker observing this "one" fugitive.  What this sets up is a need for either resolution or fulfillment to be addressed in the poem.  Not directly mind you, but the accumulation brings a sense of importance to the conceptual.

"He is you and you and you"  So this line confirms that the "one" is the same "one" in the beginning of the poem.  However, there's more of an accusatory tone with each repetition and each line, "You will look to him for your expiation," looking at the other self to atone -- the one that seeks something as a fugitive (stanza 2) rather than a somewhat tourist (stanza 1).

"face him in the revolving door, sit with him in the plaza / and soothe his fears and sympathize with his story / and accustom him to the overwhelming sun." Here the poem goes personal with the other "one" by being receptive rather than being only observant.  The "overwhelming sun" line feels like a regards to the divine, but not a jab.  Here this line separates the setting from the interaction.

"until his death becomes your death. / You will restore his confiscated minutes to him one by one."  Note that death here isn't absolution, but a goal.  The true understanding of "ones" is something more empathetic rather than sympathetic.  The last line is pretty heady for me, how does the empathy restore minutes of someone already dead?  By keeping the memory alive, maybe.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Analysis of "Empire of Dreams" by Charles Simic

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Empire of Dreams" by Charles Simic
Originally read: October 29, 2013
More information about the Poet: Charles Simic


Another dream sequence type of poem, but this one has different implications.  Yes, in a dream, everything is possible, but in an empire of dreams, what is the structure?

The conceit is stated in the beginning, "On the first page of my dreambook" and so this isn't only about dreams, this is what the speaker experiences after the dream -- waking up and recording a dream.  The conceit is a dream empire looked back upon.

"It's always evening / In an occupied country."  Heavy language here, but this is a dream landscape where the word "occupied" could mean various things.  Sure occupied could have that militaristic sense, but who is really there -- only the speaker.

     Hour before the curfew.
     A small provincial town.
     The houses all dark.
     The storefronts gutted.

Note how each line is end-stopped with a period.  All descriptors that state this area -- gutted, dark, small, and an hour in before time is up.  Sounds like a dream to me.  Or, yes, the subtext of the empire is here as well.  The question is ,again, who is here though?

"I am on a street corner / Where I shouldn't be" the speaker is self aware of his placement, but where: the dream or the occupied land (perhaps both).  The speaker is toying with this idea.  But in either case, there's no sense of "freedom" here.

"Alone and coatless / I have gone out to look / For a black dog who answers to my whistle" This reminds me of the dog in his other poem "On this Very Street in Belgrade" where that dog was "homeless," this dog is "black" sort of like his shadow or rather something that comes back to the speaker.

"I have kind of Halloween mask / Which I am afraid to put on"  These ending lines have strong implications going both ways.  For the occupied land part, then yes, dissension in the form of a mask -- covering oneself up.  For the occupied dream, then yes, the fear of covering and then adding another layer to the dreamscape.
   

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Analysis of "Djinn" by Rae Armantrout

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Djinn" by Rae Armantrout
Originally read: October 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Rae Armantrout



I'm still not sure what Djinn means to this poem except being ethereal.  And a poem starting with the word "ethereal" or anything that has to do with transparency does show it's hand towards an unveiling.  Here, Djinn is so rooted as a character that I didn't think about the make-up of the character until the end...just how the character relates.

     Haunted, they say, believing
     the soft, shifty
     dunes are made up
     of false promises.

The set up is not the false promises -- but who "they" are.  From this point on there is something missing, but states a heavy impact. In this case the idea of 'Haunted" is tied with the descriptors of "soft, shifty dunes" and all together this is more or less a symbol of false promises, but from what perspective?  False promises only have impact based on who is saying it in this case.

     Many believe
     whatever happens
     is the other half
     of a conversation.

Cause and effect?  Here is a play with the previous stanza.  Note the repetition of believe in which is a progression from the last stanza which also pushes this current stanza.  Thought upon thought and then "happens" is the other half to the conversation.  So does that mean the first stanza is "happens?"

     Many whisper
     white lies
     to the dead.

     "The boys are doing really well."

So here's the devastating part.  My mind goes into quatrains even though this poem has more (or less) a free verse element.  So with this "quatrain" there's an emotional sentiment pull here.  There might be a connection that the dead here refers to the "boys."  And once again, who is the one saying this -- and what is the tone and inflection.

     "The boys are doing really well."

     Some think
     nothing is so
     until it has been witnessed.

In order to keep my quatrain theory alive, I have to take a leap.  I feel the line "The boys are doing really well" also has some importance here in which the quote plays with the idea of "witness."  Is the quote an example of  witnessing an event? Or is it the effect of "the other half of the conversation?"

     They believe
     the bits are iffy;

     the forces that bind them,
     absolute.

Here is a little more pointed idea of "they."  And, to be honest, I focused on the idea of "absolute" when everything stated so far hasn't been completed pointed down.  Who do I think "they" are?  I only have what's stated in the poem -- what they believe, and what they say.

Now the forces that bind "them" is directly correlated with "iffy" -- so the force could be knowing improbability occures -- that nothing is absolute -- and that is an absolute.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Analysis of "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)" by William Shakespeare

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? (Sonnet 18)" by William Shakespeare
Originally read: October 27, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Shakespeare


Probably one of the most famous (Elizabethan) sonnets of all time.  This poem in particular reminds me of that old English puzzle.  "Can I go to the bathroom?" "I don't know, can you?"  Something facetious like that.  This poem isn't facetious though.

The core of the poem is not only a love poem, but also a permission poem.  Where "My mistress eyes is nothing like the sun" plays with the idea of hyperbolic comparison, the play with this poem is the idea of "love."

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate,
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

The first part is a rhetorical question based on asking the other if the comparison could be made.  But of course we have to go forward because, well, saying no would probably be a different poem.  Note that the comparison to the thee is brief, "thou art more lovely and more temperate," and the rest of the quatrain states the harshness of Summer -- rough winds in May (is that summer or spring?) and how short summer is.  These descriptors, in turn, are not the "thee":

     Sometimes too hot they eye of heaven shines,
     And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
     And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
     By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed.

Note how the comparison to "thee" are basically gone to the conceptual of what "summer" means -- what is compared to.  The temporariness of summer can be similar to the "his gold complexion dimmed" -- perhaps a reference to the sun, or to the divine due to "chance" or "natures changing course"  -- time.  Time dims summer, regardless of the return.

     But thy eternal summer shall not fade.
     Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st
     Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
     When in eternal lines to Time thou grows't

What the speaker is proposing is an "eternal summer" and rather than state what eternal summer is, the speaker states what an eternal summer can do.  Never losing  fairness, be immortal from death, and won't be forgotten by time.

    So long as man can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

So I remember reading this poem a long time ago in the class and the professor ended with, "and we're still reading this poem today" and then she sighed.  And my response was...what. What is loved here is not a person.  This is not like Robert Herrick's Julia poems where there's someone specific being addressed -- rather a concept is being memorialized, a meta-poetic one.

What's eternal the idea of someone fair being immortalized on paper -- note that there isn't a comparison to the other throughout most of the poem, rather the concepts of what can take the other away.

The speaker places himself in the position to be the only one to make the other immortal.  The idea.  Not a specific love, but of "love."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Analysis of "contemplation within the framework of the dream" by Renée Ashley

Original poem reprinted online here:  "contemplation within the framework of the dream" by Renée Ashley
Originally read: October 24, 2013
More information about the Poet: Renée Ashley


What intrigued me the most about this poem is the use of the colon in the second line versus the lack of periods throughout the piece.  It wouldn't have bothered me so much, but there's capitalization that feign a new sentence within the text, therefore, creating the assumption of pause and cohesiveness.

But this poem is within  "the framework of the dream" not "a," "the."  Very specific on talking about the general.  And what's being discussed, "Consider the custom of likeness or unlikeness fit as the / moon to a sky :"  equivocation of reality versus appearance -- note the colon is there as well to indicate that the following are either defining points of this concept, and/or a focusing device for the speaker to go forward.

"let one point light up let it be relative / to that The speed of that Let something, quite real cry / out--" The play here is conceptual, light and speed play more with the conceptual and scientific with "relative" working with multiple definitions. while "cry" plays more with the sonic device which goes out.

"the dead still insisting still making themselves / known their body ill-fit and mostly self inflicted They / change the story"  The personification here insists upon being present here.  The commentary comes with "self inflicted."  And yes they change the "story" but not necessarily the framework of the dream , "A pattern of escalation Of furthering a backing off  Embellishment!"  I didn't notice the exclamation mark until now.  I feel the exclamation mark is more of a tonal distinction than a strong pause.  In any case the push and pull is told here with no consequence, again, to the framework.

"There is no space / big enough for me to speak into about this Any little / human thing might act as a balm"  So here the speaker sort of gives up trying to speak about "this" which is still, at this point, pretty ambiguous what "this" is.  The conceptual I suppose.  The change of pace does cut off the poem so, theoretically, the thought of the lined could have been placed anywhere as an indicator of "the end of the discussion."  The balm line further gives reason to not discuss further -- just something temporary and doesn't get to the core of the "pain."

"What's your confession?"  Feels like a throwaway to relate back to the reader., but this implies that the speaker is telling a confession -- the inability to speak about "this" -- kind of, again, a confession that could only work in the framework of the dream.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Analysis of "A Drinking Song" by William Butler Yeats

Original poem reprinted online here:  "A Drinking Song" by William Butler Yeats
Originally read: October 2, 2013
More information about the Poet: William Butler Yeats



So I don't know much about drinking songs.  I went here to listen to some drinking songs.  Damn, depressing (or the ones I listened to: "O Danny Boy", "Seven Drunken Nights" "Molly Malone" -- it could've been my luck in selection).  If I was drinking, I wouldn't want to hear them.

I think this poem, and some drinking songs, show why a person is drinking -- kind of like kicking themselves repeatedly for whatever reason: reliving the pain to dull it again, or to remember something good at least.

"Wine comes in at the mouth / And love comes in at the eye."  So the rhyme scheme of this poem is an ababab rhyme scheme to accentuate the separation, but this starts out wistful enough, and then, "That's all we shall know for truth / Before we grow old and die."  Welp, all right.  We know that wine is on the mouth, love is in the eye and that's as far as we get -- oh we grow old and die eventually.

"I lift the glass to my mouth / I look at you, and I sigh."  Who knows what caused the separation or what's there?  Yes, theoretically, this could be about Maud Gonne and Yeat's love of her. But take note that this is the speakers perception of the situation.  So the idea, at least in this poem, stands out more than who, specifically, this poem is directed to.  The inability to love someone and only having wine to fall back on -- that sounds like a good life to me, but depressing for others I suppose.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Analysis of "Separation is the necessary condition for light." by Brian Teare

Original poem reprinted online here:  "Separation is the necessary condition for light." by Brian Teare
Originally read: October 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Brian Teare



Written in tercets, the poem forces the separation through the adjusted stanzas.  I've been reading this poem for a while and I'm not too sure how to read this poem.  The simplest answer is to go top down, left right, but the poem can be read based on columns as well -- left column and right column.  You know what, why not?  I've read some criticism of this poem that goes the top down, left right, angle, but I'm going to try to do the left column and right column reading.

So on the left column, there are five stanzas of tercets, and on the right there are four stanzas of tercets.

The left column does more of the set-up while the right column does more of the introspection.  With the left column the poem starts with the speaker carrying an abandoned mattress to the attic, and then relates this scene to, "I was glad to see him / to remember when / the fathers seemed."  Now this is the tricky part -- "seemed. / their names"  Here's why this works.  The memory of the father is turned around because the speaker is not only going by the general of "fathers" and the ideological stance of "seem"  -- fathers could be, should be, perhaps fathers.

Yeah the next two stanzas I'm probably stretching since combined they make little sense:


     [...] a stand
     of them across the field
     I want to say autumn

     and makes of your name
     a sail     a boat above roots
     that rise to stem that rise

Well actually, I could stretch this to make sense.  Currently, the speaker wants autumn and the "makes" (the foundation) of your name.  Here the "your" seems to be addressed to a specific subject, the father perhaps.  And so the dual usage of "rise" as one that goes above and one that goes beyond follows this image, "above the flickering field / the fathers shrinking / far beneath our feet."  The rise goes back to "our" the speaker and the reader.  Even though the image of the "fathers" keeps coming up, we try to either escape, squelch, or rise above it.

Nope, then starts the right column, "a month dead my father / walked hillside in the field / surrounding his house."  Note how the poem is now more concrete with the description and how the "fathers" now become a "father."

And with the next stanza, the speaker separates even further, "generic    related   a class / of things as uniform as trees / are when you don't know"  and this speaks mostly about the speaker's relationship to the father.  Note how the speaker was able to relate with the concept of the "fathers" and here the distancing device is "generic."

     aspens     the late fathers
     blonde as early evening
     wind startles their eyes

     to leaf his door and cornices
     his felt hat and mattress
     empty    it feels like forever

So the shift goes back to the speakers perception of "late fathers"  -- now a little more specific with "blonde" and "eyes" which focuses the poem back down to the father -- the reinforced metaphor of the empty mattress.  This cycle of what the father represents and what the speaker wants "fathers" as a whole to represent don't necessarily mix (like my reading of this poem).

Monday, June 2, 2014

Analysis of "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop

Original poem reprinted online here:  "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop
Originally read: October 21, 2013
More information about the Poet: Elizabeth Bishop


I probably wrote 2-3 essay about this poem in my college career; furthermore, I read this poem out loud as one of my favorite poems.  This poem, no matter how many times I read it, still brings a big impact at the end.  Yes, there are tons of criticism out there already on this poem, but this poem came up, and, well, I'm not skipping my chances for this.

The poem is a villanelle which has the refrain lines in the first and third lines of the first stanza, "The art of losing isn't hard to master; / so many things seem filled with the intent / to be lost that their loss is no disaster."  The poem starts out playful but the subject has so much gravitas. "Loss" isn't a big joking matter -- the subject is subjective though or rather how does someone feel when they lose something.

"Lose something every day.  Accept the fluster / of lost door keys, the hour badly spent. / The art of losing isn't hard to master."  Simple, self-contained episodes on the page with this episode being humorous.  Who hasn't lost door keys?  This is something that everyone can relate to.  And with just only an hour lost.  But what reoccurs in this poem is the gravitas, "The art of losing isn't hard to master" which foreshadows a reflective quality to the poem.

"Then practice losing farther, losing faster: / places, and names, and where it was you meant / to travel.  None of these will bring disaster."  This stanza works differently than the previous one where the speed, the tempo, and the seriousness of loss is ramp up, but then undercut with the twist on the refrain, "none of these will bring disaster."  And the idea here seems to be losing the general, nothing specific that have the "intent to be lost."

"I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or / next-to-last, or three loved houses went. / The art of losing isn't hard to master."  Here the poem introduces the speaker and personal vestment.  With the admittance of losing the mother's watch and the houses -- these things happen, but the key to this poem is how to interpret "And look!."  Cynical?  Sarcastic? Surprised? Angry?  The line holds a lot of emotional weight.

"I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster, / some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent / I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster."  This idea parallels with the generalities in the second stanza, but with a different perspective.  By going general here, it feels that the speaker is distancing herself from the importance of loss as though to exaggerate what the speaker can have.  Can the speaker have cities or rivers or continents?  No, but the speaker can keep the memory of them -- it's not so much a disaster.  Then what is?

     - Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
     I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
     the art of losing's not too hard to master
     though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The shan't have lied has personal implications here for multiple reasons here.  the speaker becomes fully vested at loss at this point it feels the past stanzas were set-up to escape feeling loss; furthermore, "lied" is also in reference to a person in which the speaker, still, at this point doesn't admit feelings of loss, but implies regret.

The last two lines play with the forced repetition.  Here the speaker tweaks the line to have a parenthetical.  There's so much emotion contained with "(Write it!)" just like the line "And look!"  The brevity creates this emotion.  In the former case, the impact is the forcing of the speaker to write, "like disaster" as though the speaker is still trying to belittle the experience, still trying to escape, but can't. "(Write it!)"